How to Build the Perfect Privatized Highway


I’m so glad gas prices have fallen …

Now we can jack up the national gasoline tax! This all came together quite well, didn’t it?

Senator Orrin Hatch recently told reporters that while he prefers not to increase taxes, he sees this as more of a user fee, saying …

People who use the highways ought to pay for them. And that’s a small price to pay to have the best highway system in the world.

Clearly the senator didn’t consider Germany’s Autobahn before making this comment.

Regardless, calling a tax a user fee doesn’t make it any less of a criminal act.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for user fees. Just “real” user fees.

My Very Own Six-Lane Highway

Last year, the good folks over at the Reason Foundation published a report called, “Ten Reasons Why Per-Mile Tolling is a Better Highway User Fee than Fuel Taxes.”

It’s an excellent report, and I definitely recommend checking it out.

In the report, researchers successfully argue that a per-mile tolling system, utilizing modern all-electronic tolling technology, would serve as a more accurate charge for drivers.

Of course, I prefer this only in the absence of a complete dismantling of government-controlled roads.

Quite frankly, such a tolling system would be far more efficient if it was maintained by a private company, built around consumer demand instead of central planning.

Truth is, I’d love to own and operate a section of a six-lane highway. I’d actually make it fun and efficient. Something no bureaucrat could ever do.

The Wesley Willis Memorial Highway

If given such an opportunity, the first thing I’d do is create three tiers of service: standard, first class, and commercial.

Standard users would pay the lowest fee for road use. However, because as a private business owner I want my customers to be happy, I would ensure that the roads were safe, smooth, properly maintained during snow storms, and clean. There would be no shoulders doubling as trash dumps on my road.

For a little more, users could upgrade to first class lanes, where they would get the same basic services offered in the standard lanes, but also have Wi-Fi access and special rest stops that would offer free water and coffee. And not that cheap stuff either, but some good high-end organic shit that I’d personally order every month direct from small-scale producers in Africa and Central America. Of course, I’d also use this as an opportunity to create a profit center for a side coffee business, selling bags of my own special roasts.

Commercial users would pay a separate fee based not only on miles driven, but also on how much wear and tear they would cause to the roads. However, commercial users would also have access to first class amenities, plus special rates for truck hook-ups and lodging. Each commercial customer would also get a free copy of the entire B.J. and the Bear series on Blu-ray.

On my highway, only those driving in a dangerous manner, putting others at risk, would be asked to leave. No refunds!

All vending stations would include marijuana edibles, small-caliber firearms, and plenty of organic fruits and vegetables. Every rest stop would have a pho restaurant, a Cuban cafe fully stocked with real Cuban sandwiches and mojitos, and a Chipotle (because I own shares of the stock).

Security would be provided by a private police force, we’d invite all of our customers to an annual concert where Clutch would headline (all proceeds would be donated to the Human Fund), and we would accept cash, gold, all major credit cards, and bitcoin. Bitcoin users, by the way, would receive a 10% discount on toll fees and a 15% discount on all food and merchandise.

Oh, and all police license plate readers and other such state-funded snooping devices will be banned. If any are discovered, they will be urinated upon and delivered by private courier to the appropriate offenders.

All jokes aside (because clearly it would be very difficult to match my vision with reality), I still argue that increasing the national gasoline tax in an effort to make up for decreasing revenues used to build and maintain highways is a horrible idea.

This revenue shortfall for road funding should be used as an opportunity to embrace new, free-market solutions, not to double-down on flawed systems of taxation and infrastructure funding.

It will be interesting to see how all this pans out. Although I suspect some kind of increase in the federal gasoline tax will happen this year.

Drivers will blame a republican or democrat, but few will be willing to break the shackles of their own self-imposed partisan slavery. And that, dear reader, is a shame. Because there’s no doubt that until voters turn their backs on the hustle that is government-funded roads, they’ll never be able to enjoy the magic that is the Wesley Willis Memorial Highway. That’s what I’d call it. Unless, of course, some big bank or software company wants to sponsor it and buy the naming rights. You know, like they do with stadiums. One can dream!

About Author


Jeff Siegel is the managing editor of He has been a featured guest on Fox, CNBC, and Bloomberg Asia, is a frequent speaker at investment and alternative energy conferences and seminars, and is the author of Libertarian Treehugger: How Free Markets and Rational Thought can Help Solve Some of Today's Biggest Environmental and Social Problems.