Credit: Photo: Illinois State Toll Highway Authority

Since 2004, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority has converted all 20 of its plazas from mainline barrier tolls to open-road tolling as part of a $5.3 billion congestion-relief program.

An additional $175 million would be available for congestion-mitigation efforts under President Bush's proposed 2008 budget. Much of the money would come from unobligated balances of inactive highway demonstration projects from past years or other defunct projects that simply never happened, and includes:

$100 million: for the U.S. DOT's Value Pricing Pilot Program (the “VPPProgram”), previously called the Congestion Pricing Pilot Program. The VPPProgram provides grants and tolling authority to up to 15 states or other jurisdictions to deploy and evaluate congestion pricing.

$25 million: for the FHWA's “Corridors of the Future” program. Truck shipments are expected to expand greatly in the next 20 years, and this program is designed to expand highway capacity in areas of the nation where commercial traffic is expected to increase or where congestion occurs.

Applications for Corridors of the Future were submitted late last year. The FHWA expects to announce the winning localities by the end of June.

$25 million: for real-time traffic management information systems as authorized by SAFETEA-LU, the federal transportation bill enacted in 2005. These systems include “call 511” systems for traffic information and changeable message boards that provide information about traffic ahead.

$25 million: for research and development of intelligent transportation systems, which include systems such as cameras, detectors, and communication systems to monitor traffic, optimize signal timings, and improve traffic flow; the 511 traffic information number; and automated crash notification systems that assist responders in determining what type of help to send.

The funding is designed to spur agencies to discover how to bring real-time traffic information into vehicles so drivers can avoid traffic jams by taking alternate routes.

— Dan Brown is a freelance writer based in Des Plaines, Ill.