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Efficient Transportation Infrastructure Policy

  • Clifford Winston

This paper offers a perspective on paying for and investing in the transportation infrastructure. The following example illustrates the need to move away from the current national mind set. Pick any pothole-laden, congested two-lane road in an urban area. Suppose public funds are used to widen the road to four lanes and to repave it. Benefits will immediately flow from this investment in the form of lower travel time and less vehicle damage, but before long, the road will again fill to capacity and deteriorates. This cycle can be broken only if infrastructure is priced and invested in more efficiently. If the pothole-laden road is kept to two lanes when it is repaved but vehicles are required to pay efficient tolls based on congestion and pavement wear, then the road's capacity is far less likely to be exceeded during peak periods and its pavement will remain in good condition. Making efficient use of current transportation capacity will reduce the need for massive public investment in airports and roads and will prevent the recurrence of infrastructure problems.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.5.1.113
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 5 (1991)
Issue (Month): 1 (Winter)
Pages: 113-127

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:5:y:1991:i:1:p:113-27
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.5.1.113
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  1. David Aschauer, 1988. "Is public expenditure productive?," Staff Memoranda 88-7, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  2. Small, Kenneth A., 1983. "The incidence of congestion tolls on urban highways," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 90-111, January.
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