California is on the verge of sharply expanding its 117 miles of toll roads
to accommodate trucks, expedite freight and ease the pain of the daily
commute in the state’s most traffic-clogged areas. The game plan, which is
fraught with controversy because private companies will build the roads and
collect the tolls, is the result of an agreement reached earlier this year
by the governor and the Legislature.
Few in California doubt that traffic congestion needs to be eased. Using
toll roads to do it is not so popular, however, and bringing in private
vendors to run the roads is less popular still. But even critics of the
agreement say public funds are hard to get and that such a “public-private
partnership” offers a way to raise money quickly and get the roads built. In
the end, the public is tired of getting stuck in traffic.
“I think there is a hope, if not a belief, that if they can get private
sector or other sources of funding it will relieve the pressure,” said Bruce
Blanning of the Professional Engineers in California Government, which
opposed the toll-road plan.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers authorized four privately run toll
roads–two in Southern California and two in the north state–in legislation
authored by Assembly Speaker Fabian N