Issues in the Financing of Truck-Only Lanes

Transportation planners have debated for decades the efficacy of separating traffic into lanes reserved for passenger vehicles and those reserved for trucks. This article discusses the feasibility of considering funding for such special-purpose lanes as truck-only lanes and addresses the questions of "who pays" and "who benefits." Trucking advocates argue that the benefits of constructing truck-only lanes include traffic safety improvements, reduced conflicts, lower maintenance costs on general-traffic lanes, and improved comfort and convenience of those traveling in passenger vehicles. One study found that truck-only lanes would be cost-effective only when traffic volumes are relatively high, with a sizable presence of heavy trucks. Constructing truck-only lanes would be expensive: Such construction alongside an existing rural interstate would cost around $2.5 million per lane-mile, plus additional land acquisition costs. Costs in densely developed urban areas would be higher. It has been proposed that financing would be done through tolls, but several issues have been raised about the appropriate level of tolls, which users should pay tolls, and the extent to which tolls will cover the full costs of the facilities. Two scenarios are explored regarding whether tolls should be paid only by large trucks or whether tolls should be paid by all vehicles. It has been proposed that costs should be paid by various vehicle classes. Four benefits to trucking firms may be (1) trucking firms may be less exposed to the risk of car-truck crashes, (2) trucks could operate more efficiently with lower traffic volumes in the lanes, (3) the added capacity could alleviate congestion, reducing travel time and the uncertainties of arrival times, and (4) arguments for increased use of longer combination vehicles (LCVs) would be strengthened because LCVs would not be operating in the same lanes as do passenger vehicles. Benefits to passenger vehicles are threefold: (1) improved safety, especially reducing collisions between large trucks and passenger cars, (2) the quality of the traveling experience would improve, e.g., small passenger vehicles would not be boxed in between trucks, and (3) truck-only lanes would improve speeds and traffic flow. The authors suggest a feasibility analysis that could be conducted that would suggest that truck operators would receive the majority of benefits from truck-only lanes, and thus, they should pay the majority of the costs.