John Stossel: Billions of Tax Dollars on Roads? That's 'Bull'

It's part of the stimulus plan. The government has announced it's going to spend billions of your dollars on building new roads, and fixing old ones. They say they'll do it efficiently. I say, bull.

Some people call the traffic jam on the way to work … driving into hell.

Joseph Woo of Atlanta told us he has the most miserable commute in America.


The Texas Transportation Institute, a research division of Texas A&M, says Atlanta is America's second-most-congested city.

"You plan your day around traffic," Woo said. "Because you never know if there's going to be traffic or not. You have to leave an hour and 15 minutes in advance. This is why I don't drink coffee. If I drank coffee, my head would probably explode!"

Reason TV host Drew Carey went on radio station KFI AM 640 to search for the person with the worst commute in Los Angeles, the most congested city in America.

"Traffic goes all the way back in each direction blocks and blocks. There's no end in sight to it," he said on the radio. "And like a lot of places in America, it's only going to get worse."

In 2007, the Texas Transportation Institute found that traffic jams caused the average commuter to spend an extra 38 hours on the road and, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau (2003), the average commute takes 25 minutes.

Research by the Reason Foundation suggests that in 20 years, 29 cities will be as bad as Los Angeles.

We teamed up with Carey because he and Reason TV are frustrated with big government bull and they're searching for other ways to get things done, things like improving our daily commute. Carey and Reason TV eventually decided Los Angeles' most frustrated commuter is graphic artist Josh Lipking.

Every day Lipking checks out Sigalert and Google traffic before kissing his wife good-bye and driving into what Carey calls "hell."

Private Road-Builders Offer Solutions

Lipking says he "starts to sweat a little," his heart pumping as he tries to make the most of the time he spends in traffic. He's become proficient at flossing with one hand.

Josh lives only 16 miles from work but it often takes him an hour and a half to get to the office.

But what if his commute (and yours) didn't have to be this bad? What if someone wanted to add some lanes to this road, or build an entirely new road?

Private road builders are doing this kind of work across the world, such as the double-decker underground highway in Paris, complete with 350 cameras watching for traffic delays or accidents. Any incident is detected in less than 10 seconds. Once the camera detects a problem authorities rush to tow the obstacle away so traffic keeps moving.

They do the same thing in California, too, on at least one road: Highway 91. Instead of building a brand-new road, they added two lanes in the middle of an existing highway. Drivers can choose to use them, or not.

If you want to go this fast, you have to pay. Different amounts depending on the time of day. Sometimes $1.50, sometimes $9. But by paying you save time. Traffic moves. And for some people, time is money.

Were these traffic speeding innovations created by government road-builders? No. They were created and paid for by private road-builders.

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