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REPORT: New Toll Lanes Could Finance Alberta Roads

Posted: January 15, 2016 by Today's Trucking Staff

CALGARY, AB – Alberta should take a page out of Ontario’s book and investigate the use of high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes to help finance billions in scheduled road and bridge upgrades, a new C.D Howe Institute report recommends.

The report, Getting More Buildings for our Bucks, warns that fuel taxes and licensing are covering less than 70 per cent of roadway expenses across Canada, and that HOT lanes could not only prove a financial remedy for a province like Alberta, but provide congestion relief as well.

Alberta plans to spend nearly $7 billion on road and bridge infrastructure over the next five years.

“To finance this new infrastructure, provincial governments should look to road pricing,” states the report authored by C.D. Howe senior policy analyst Benjamin Dachis. “Although this approach is often politically unpopular, at least initially, Ontario is showing how governments can introduce the public to the notion of road pricing.”Ben Dachis

Ontario’s HOT lane pilot project will begin on a section of the QEW between Trafalgar Road in Oakville and Guelph Line in Burlington in summer 2016 to help manage congestion and add another option for travellers. 

Carpools of two or more occupants will still be able to use the QEW HOT lanes for free, while single occupant drivers will now have the option to purchase a permit to use them.

The report suggests that ring roads (pictured) in Calgary and Edmonton are perfect locations for HOT lanes, as are new highway expansions in other provinces.

Opponents of road pricing often consider HOT lanes to be a “double taxation” of drivers because both the tolls and part of government tax revenues go toward building and maintaining roads.

“However, HOT lane revenues – like road pricing on other roads – could bring the price that drivers pay for infrastructure they use closer to the actual cost of it,” states Dachis.

The report states that provincial governments should perform comprehensive cost-benefit analyses of all major infrastructure investments.

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