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For whom the lane tolls

Posted: April 28, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 28, 2014 2:00 a.m.

I just got back from a series of business trips in the east. I was able to visit the garden spots of Pittsburgh, Topeka, Kansas City, and Philadelphia. I was never so glad to get back home.

Not that those places are bad. I really liked getting snow in Pittsburgh. In April.

Having that cold wind cut through me like a hot knife through butter. Not seeing the sun. Not getting any decent Mexican food.

And I just love paying tolls on roads and interstate highways. Back east, one comes to expect seeing the toll booth rising up on the road ahead and dropping in a couple of quarters. It’s now part of the landscape.

In Chicago, they built most of the freeways out of the city by charging tolls to the users. They told the citizens that the tolls would end when the highways were paid for.

Odd, but this bill never seems to get paid.

Twenty to 30 years later, Chicagoans are still throwing their change in the basket to support what is nowa massive bureaucracy that has nothing to do with the original construction of the road.

However, we do not expect to see massive toll road systems here. Until now.

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported last Wednesday that the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority is now making permanent a pay lane system on the 110 and 10 freeways.

You now have the option of paying between 25 cents and $1.40 per mile based on traffic congestion.

You go to Costco, buy a transponder that goes on your dashboard, place a deposit in your account, and they begin deducting each time you drive in the Express Lanes.

Of course, car pools are free. For now. You must have at least two people in your car on the 110 and three folks on the 10.

News flash: Metro board members are apoplectic with glee (or greed?). Board member John Fasna was quoted as saying, “Overall, (the program) is positive. It merits continuation.”

Yeah, Johnny. It has netted Metro $34 million in revenues over the first year trial period.

Something important is being missed here. Toll roads are typically implemented to build something and have the users pay for it.

For example, the 73 down in Orange County is a toll road built and financed by tolls. The Chicago freeways were built on the same model.

The 110 and 10 freeways were built with public funds. They are the property of the state of California and, by inference, the people of California.

The tolls being charged on these public roads are not being used to build or improve them. They are simply a new tax imposed by local agencies as a revenue device.

This is not acceptable. In effect, we are being charged a use tax to enjoy a piece of property that we have already paid for.

And don’t think you car-poolers are safe. Those diamond lanes were just a first step to prepare us for the eventual taxation of all users of our public highways. You will pay too. It’s just a matter of time.

What is truly ironic is that diamond lanes were sold to Californians as a way to be more green and ecologically friendly. Ride with a buddy and slow down global warming. We now see that this was never the intent.

True, arguments are being made that this initiative forces drivers to car pool and relieve pressure from our roads.

The problem is, we made a conscious decision years ago to build super-freeways as our principle mode of transportation.

Eastern cities such as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have public transportation systems that allow people to avoid driving.

All last week, I rode Pittsburgh’s “T” system every day to work. In fact, it is completely free in the downtown area.
Los Angeles — and most of California, for that matter — have no comparable system.

Converting freeways (emphasis on “free”) to toll roads is simply wrong. It is not a matter of friendly ecology as much as a way for governmental agencies to create new revenue streams. It must stop.

Our local supervisor, Mike Antonovich, has reservations.

Please email or call his office and tell him that the misappropriation of our traffic system by greedy politicians does not serve the public interest.

I think I’ll go back to Topeka.

Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita and is going to start charging Metro for not using its toll lanes. That will fix ‘em. He can be reached at


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