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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Reforming the Turnpike: Higher Gas tax

The Governor's Plan to reconfigure the turnpike is ill conceived
(Patrick seeking turnpike shakeup, Boston Globe, November 11, 2008:
A1; Redirecting our Transport System, Boston Globe, November 13, 2008).

As an organization theorist, I find the idea of two different agencies
running different sections of the turnpike as absurd as the current
system of one road being run by the turnpike and the rest by Massachusetts
Highways department (except for the Tobin Bridge which is run by
Massachusetts Port Authority).

We need to simplify not create an equally complex infrastructure. The
problem with two agencies is that financial resources have to be
expended to coordinate their activities where the two roads meet. If
coordination is poor we will have a strip on unploughed and unrepaired
road because both agencies pass the buck saying "It is their job." At
least that's what happens with the ploughing of a section of sidewalk
near my home.

Here is the solution:
1. Give the Mass Pike to the Highways Department.
2. Give the Tobin Bridge to the Highways Department
3. Remove all the tolls.
4. Increase the gasoline tax to about $0.50.

Here is why:

All of us benefit from the turnpike every day of our lives. The food
we eat, the consumer products we buy all reach the cities and towns of
the state via the turnpike. Those of us who live closer to it may
benefit a little more through reduced congestion when other users
travel the turnpike rather than local roads. Those of us who use the
turnpike benefit most of all, but we do not benefit more than those
who use Interstate 95 and pay no tolls at all.

It is therefore clear, that the turnpike tolls are an additional tax
imposed on those who drive on the turnpike; logic -- as opposed to
politics -- tells us that, as we all benefit from the turnpike then we
should all pay for it.

Last year, the gas tax at 23.5 cents per gallon raised about $600
million. Raising the tax to 50 cents per gallon would raise about
$1.26 billion or an additional $626 million. While, if oil prices stay
constant, the price would increase to about to about $3.00 per gallon.

This would cover all the turnpike revenue from tolls (about $250
million as of December 2006) and leave over $370 million to be
allocated to the road and bridge repairs that we desperately need or
to pay down the debt.

Sent to Boston Globe

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