Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 5 No. 1 (Winter 1991)


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Efficient Transportation Infrastructure Policy

Article Citation

Winston, Clifford. 1991. "Efficient Transportation Infrastructure Policy." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 5(1): 113-127.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.5.1.113


This paper offers a perspective on paying for and investing in the transportation infrastructure. The following example illustrates the need to move away from the current national mind set. Pick any pothole-laden, congested two-lane road in an urban area. Suppose public funds are used to widen the road to four lanes and to repave it. Benefits will immediately flow from this investment in the form of lower travel time and less vehicle damage, but before long, the road will again fill to capacity and deteriorates. This cycle can be broken only if infrastructure is priced and invested in more efficiently. If the pothole-laden road is kept to two lanes when it is repaved but vehicles are required to pay efficient tolls based on congestion and pavement wear, then the road's capacity is far less likely to be exceeded during peak periods and its pavement will remain in good condition. Making efficient use of current transportation capacity will reduce the need for massive public investment in airports and roads and will prevent the recurrence of infrastructure problems.

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Winston, Clifford (Brookings Institution)

JEL Classifications

R42: Transportation Systems: Government and Private Investment Analysis; Transportation Planning


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