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Empirical Evidence of Toll Road Traffic Diversion and Implications for Highway Infrastructure Privatization

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Privatization of toll roads is a new policy in the U.S. Although there has been much discussion on how high tolls might go on roads that have been leased under long-term agreements, little empirical work has been done to suggest how private operators might price road access and what effect these pricing policies might have on traffic, the public, and the highways system. This paper empirically demonstrates that tolls can be expected to rise quite significantly and that substantial diversion of trucks is likely to take place. Some of this traffic is likely to divert (as it did in Ohio) to two-lane roads that are inherently less safe than interstate highways. Additionally, the increased cost of freight transportation resulting from such toll increases is likely to have substantial negative effects on interstate commerce and the economy.