Road patrol plan offers promise of relief
Coming off the sour experience of the "van cams," one might think the state Transportation Department would be leery of moving ahead on yet another traffic management experiment.
But undaunted, it is moving ahead. And this latest plan, for roving patrols that would help move stalled or disabled cars off the highways, seems to make a lot of sense.
The two-year freeway patrol project will be supported with federal money to the tune of $1 million a year. Special contractors will be hired and trained to roam the freeways, where they could offer rapid response in the case of stalls, breakdowns and other traffic problems.
This could be quite useful. Local drivers know that a single stall 10 miles up the road can cause a backup that goes on seemingly forever. The quicker the stalls or problems can be removed, the quicker traffic can be back up to flow.
State officials say the new service, which will be free to motorists, is not designed to replace or supplant existing private roadside assistance programs. And it should not. It is not government's job to compete directly with an established private enterprise.
In fact, as the state looks for a contractor, it should consider first the existing roadside assistance companies. They have the experience.
It is clear that keeping traffic moving on our ever-more-crowded freeways will require a mix of efforts, ranging from physical improvements to the highways through traffic management and programs such as this that simply aim to keep all lanes open.