Putting Roads in Better Hands

By Dr. Gridlock
Sunday, March 25, 2007

D ear Dr. Gridlock:

After enduring the mess that is transportation in Virginia for nearly 30 years, I wish to suggest the following for Gov. Timothy M. Kaine: that he seek new methods of improving transportation by letting the private sector do it, that he hire people who actually know how to build a road.

The design of highways is an abomination. Stoplight positions seem to be selected by a blind person throwing darts, and the timing of stoplights is nonexistent.

James R. Campbell


Gabriel Roth, a transportation economist and author, edited "Street Smart," a collection of essays about the theory and practice of involving the private sector in building and operating roads. I asked him to respond to this letter:

"Will Rogers may not have been familiar with Virginia's transport problems, but he would probably have agreed with Mr. Campbell. Rogers is reported to have said that the way to end traffic congestion was to have government build the cars, and private industry the roads.

"If private providers were to provide the roads -- as they actually did in Virginia 200 years ago -- they would be concerned to provide facilities that users wanted and were prepared to pay for, and to provide them as inexpensively as possible . . .

"They would certainly have not supported Gov. Kaine's extravagant rail extension to Dulles, for which users are expected to pay less than a quarter of the costs.

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