Experts propose `congestion pricing` to fix traffic problems - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Experts propose `congestion pricing` to fix traffic problems

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A new National Traffic Scorecard named I-94 from 39th Street on the south to the Kennedy-Edens Junction on the north -- as America's 9th most crowded expressway. In fact, it's the most congested stretch of interstate highway between California and New York.

Experts have come up with one possible solution, but you may not like their proposal. They would charge a toll, about $2.20, to use the Kennedy's reversible lanes during the morning and evening rush. They call it "congestion pricing" and claim those willing to pay would zip down the Kennedy in less than half the time as drivers in the local lanes.

Barely two years ago, Chicago's expressway congestion was labeled the very worst in America by the Texas Traffic Institute. Now, though, another group, using a very different methodology, delivered a different verdict. The INRIX Company gave our highways a much better grade: ranking them number 12 for commuter congestion.

"I'm not surprised once you delve into the numbers and start peeling back some of the reasons why this study found us ranking 12," says Peter Skosey, Executive Vice President of the Metropolitan Planning Council.

In addition to the new study using a different definition of traffic congestion, tens of thousands of Chicago area commuters have turned to alternatives. As gasoline prices soared, so has ridership on the Chicago Transit Authority and Metra. A small but growing number use bicycle lanes that didn't even exist two years ago. A stubbornly high unemployment rate here means some who'd like to work aren't commuting at all.

But traffic trouble spots remain. The new study named I-94 between Pershing on the Dan Ryan and Sayre on the Kennedy as the most-congested expressway outside California and New York.

The Metropolitan Planning Council proposed a partial solution in 2010: during the morning and evening rush, charge a $2.20 toll to use the reversible express lanes on the Kennedy. They predicted that, instead of a typical 20 minute travel time from the Junction to Ohio Street, it would only take toll-payers nine minutes.

"Initially [it would be unpopular], certainly people react negatively to having to pay for something that they're today getting for free," Skosey says. "But I'll tell you that in every city where these types of lanes have been put in place, public support for them only grows over time."

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