A small stretch of Interstate I-95 runs through New Hampshire, along the seacoast. It’s a toll road, and it gets jammed nearly every weekend. No, make that JAMMED. Fridays it starts filling up around noonish on the northbound side, and at the end of the weekend it’s just the same heading south. And it’s even worse on holiday weekends like this one. Traffic has been known to back up for literally hours from the toll booths.
Last summer New Hampshire’s governor found himself stuck in one such jam. After taking nearly four hours to travel to travel just a few miles, Governor Craig Benson (co-founder of Cabletron, now called Enterasys, the networking company) decided something had to be done. And since he is the governor, after all, something WOULD be done.
The state tried a rather novel experiment. For the rest of the summer they shifted two-thirds of the lanes to northbound only, leaving the southbound traffic only four lanes. Then they doubled the tolls on the northbound side (to $2.00) and eliminated them on the southbound side entirely. Overall revenues did take a bit of a hit, as some travelers just started bypassing the toll stretch of the highway, but overall the traffic situation improved a bit. Benson decided to try it again this summer.
Last Friday, around noonish, I got to try out the new system. It took a while to get through the tolls going north, but not as bad as it had been in the past. And on my way back, as I blasted through the toll gates at over 50 MPH (past the “SPEED LIMIT 20 MPH”) sign), I couldn’t help but think to myself:
“If Sonny Corleone had lived in New Hampshire, he’d quite possibly be still alive today.”