New Book Offers Solutions to Relieve Traffic Congestion and Enhance Highway Safety: News Releases: The Independent Institute

The Power of Independent Thinking


Stay Connected
Get the latest updates straight to your inbox.

News Release
July 25, 2006

New Book Offers Solutions to Relieve Traffic Congestion and Enhance Highway Safety
STREET SMART: Competition, Entrepreneurship, and the Future of Roads

Edited By Gabriel Roth
Foreword by Mary E. Peters

Oakland, Ca.—“The Big Dig,” the $14.6 billion reconstruction of downtown Boston’s roadways, whose tunnel ceiling collapse recently killed a car passenger, is the latest in a long list of public mismanagement of the U.S. highway system, says transportation expert Gabriel Roth. “There are many causes of waste and mismanagement,” says Roth, a Research Fellow with the Independent Institute who served for twenty years as a transportation economist with the World Bank. “The basic reason is that the provision of roads responds to the interests of politicians rather than to the needs of road users. Markets and entrepreneurs are more responsive to road users than government bureaucracies because they are more flexible, more creative, and have stronger financial incentives to meet customers’ needs,” Roth points out in a new book, STREET SMART: Competition, Entrepreneurship, and the Future of Roads (The Independent Institute/Transaction Publishers, 2006).

But there is another way to deal with highways in dire need of repair and investment, writes Mary Peters in her foreword to STREET SMART, “The time has come to unleash the power of the private sector to deliver the innovation, cost savings, quality, and choice it has delivered in telecommunications and other industries. Free markets work!” writes Peters, who served both as Director of the Arizona Department of Transportation and later as Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration.

Because the U.S. Interstate Highway system grew by only one-seventh the rate of traffic growth during the 1990s and because of the widespread waste and mismanagement of government road projects, as well as the low priority accorded by politicians to highway maintenance, many American road users will find STREET SMART’s recommendations for widening the roles of market-based institutions in road services particularly appealing. STREET SMART includes essays by top academic economists, transportation engineers and consultants, who offer a variety of solutions, including case studies of how private roads are making a comeback: the SR91 Express Lanes in Southern California, Canada’s Highway 407 near Toronto, the United Kingdom’s M6 Motorway and socialist Sweden’s many privately owned and operated rural roads.

In addition to examining current projects that make greater use of markets and entrepreneurs for improving road services, STREET SMART examines the little-known history of private toll roads in 18th century Britain and 19th century America. It also explores such topical issues as whether eminent domain is necessary for building roads; why private insurers would have stronger incentives to effectively monitor the testing and licensing of cars and drivers; and how private road companies could create networks of congestion-free toll roads in Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington, D.C.

Gabriel Roth is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California, and former Transportation Economist at the World Bank.

Mary E. Peters is former Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, at the U.S. Department of Transportation, and former Secretary of the Arizona State Department of Transportation.

STREET SMART: Competition, Entrepreneurship, and the Future of Roads

Edited by Gabriel Roth
Foreword by Mary E. Peters
576 pages, 45 Tables, 73 Figures, Index
Paperback, $29.95, ISBN: 1-4128-0518-X
Cloth, $59.95, ISBN: 0-7658-0304-6

  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless