Overland Park Considers Adding Tolled Lanes to Expand Highway
Drivers on U.S. Highway 69 in Overland Park near Kansas City are about to see some market-based transportation policy in action, and Missouri policymakers should take note.
A proposal approved by the Overland Park City Council and the Kansas Department of Transportation to add two tolled lanes to U.S. Highway 69—one in each direction—will go before the Kansas Turnpike Authority for final approval. Local officials cited increased traffic from an expanding population, which is only expected to continue growing, as the need for such an expansion. Rather than paying for the project directly out of the city’s budget, officials want to use tolling to pay for the construction.
The lanes would be tolled electronically, with drivers either being billed from a K-Tag transponder or by having their license plate scanned. The prices to use these lanes will vary, with prices highest when road usage—the “demand” for roads—is highest. The original four lanes on the highway will continue to be toll-free, so drivers concerned about the cost won’t have to pay for a lane they don’t end up using.
Missouri policymakers also should consider using tolling to finance new highway lanes, particularly in areas where traffic is expected to increase beyond what the current system can handle. Congestion pricing, as this policy is also called, reduces travel times and can also help reduce local air pollution as fewer vehicles are idling on the road.
I hope the benefits of Overland Park’s tolled lanes won’t go unnoticed in Missouri. There are a lot of reasons why tolling is a policy that deserves to be explored in the Show-Me State as well.