Driving new ideas for better Oregon roads.

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For at least the last 50 years, much of the U.S transport economy has been characterized by government monopolies and private-sector cartels (such as taxi operations), administered by public regulators. The result has been rising levels of traffic congestion, poor maintenance of roads, lack of innovation, and a misallocation of investment capital into passenger rail transit.

Cascade’s research program in transportation examines market-based mechanisms for providing transport services. Examples include privately-operated bus service, for-profit car-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, and electronic tolling of highways with variable pricing.

Oregon has been slow to experiment with highway tolling, but the state legislature passed a law in 2017 mandating the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to begin planning for all-lane tolling of I-5 from Washington State to North Wilsonville, and all of I-205. ODOT is also authorized to toll any other highways under their jurisdiction. This will be an opportunity to implement a market-based highway finance system designed to make the Portland regional highway system entirely self-sufficient, with variable tolls ensuring free-flow traffic conditions at all times of the day.

Transitioning away from motor fuel taxes towards electronic tolling will require a change of thinking by Portland-area motorists, but proper implementation promises to provide a much better driving experience along with tremendous gains in economic productivity.

Cascade Policy Institute has published many papers and essays on market-based road pricing since 1995 and will continue to in the future. Those documents are available in this section of our website.

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