ANYONE WHO has sat in traffic on the crowded roadways from Virginia to the District of Columbia should understand the dilemma facing the region. If nothing new is done, and the District — as expected — continues to grow, today’s problem traffic will fast become tomorrow’s nightmare. So it’s good that city transportation planners are looking at new ways to manage the congestion.
On the drawing boards are proposals for carpool and toll lanes on one segment of the 14th Street Bridge and other parts of city highways. These high-occupancy toll, or HOT, lanes would be free to carpools of at least three people; vehicles carrying one or two people would have to pay a toll tied to the amount of congestion. The aim is twofold: shrinking the number of vehicles carrying one person as a way of reducing congestion, and providing a speedier commute for those willing to pay the price. Another possible benefit is new revenue that can be used to maintain and improve transportation infrastructure.
Congestion pricing, as this market-based traffic strategy is called, has seen success and disappointment, depending on how and where it has been implemented. D.C. Department of Transportation officials, who are developing the plans, were inspired by the experiences in Maryland and Virginia and by the knowledge that the city can’t build its way to a traffic solution. They stress that much work still must be done, in consultation with federal and regional officials and after hearing from the public. Establishing HOT lanes on one segment of the 14th Street Bridge is seen as the least difficult option, and a target date of next year is envisioned.
There is no questioning the need for careful planning. The required layers of approval, outlined by The Post’s Robert Thomson, should ensure a rigorous review. But there is also no questioning the need for better methods of managing maxed-out transportation resources. We hope the D.C. Council gives the transportation department the authorization it needs to proceed to the next level of planning.