Rethinking America’s 20th-Century Highway Institutions

Lecture | November 16 | 4 p.m. | 290 Hearst Memorial Mining Building

 Robert Poole, Reason Foundation

 Institute of Transportation Studies

The U.S. highway system is our only major public utility that is organized as a directly government-operated department. All other major utilities—whether investor- or government-owned—operate in corporate form, receiving their revenues directly from their customers, based on the services used. There is a direct customer/provider relationship that is absent in highways, except for toll roads. All these utilities issue revenue bonds to finance large-scale capital modernization, as needed. This talk explores the idea of highway utilities and suggests that this model would address the major problems facing U.S. highways.

Robert Poole is Director of Transportation Policy at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit public policy think tank. Among the ideas he has introduced to America’s transportation community are investor-financed express toll lanes, conversion of HOV lanes to HOT lanes, dedicated lanes for heavy trucks, “managed arterials,” and toll-financed Interstate highway reconstruction and modernization. Bob has advised the Secretary of Transportation in several Administrations, the Federal Highway Administration, and state transportation departments in nearly a dozen states, in addition to serving on various expert committees and commissions. He is an emeritus member of the TRB congestion pricing committee and an active member of its managed lanes committee. He writes a monthly column on transportation policy for Public Works Financing and edits the Reason e-newsletter Surface Transportation Innovations. Bob received B.S. and M.S. degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT and did further graduate work at NYU.