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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Traffic services to envy or loathe

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer

Houston has its own version of a freeway service patrol. But unlike the one expected to start in Honolulu this summer, it's not very driver friendly.

The new Houston "service" makes all freeways within the city limits tow-away zones.

Under the law, if your car breaks down for any reason, a city-contracted wrecker should arrive within six minutes and tow your vehicle. Just like Hawai'i's freeway patrol, it's designed to help get traffic moving as quickly as possible.

But that's where the similarities end. In Hawai'i, the service will be free. In Houston, you'll have to pay $75, whether you wanted the service or not.

Even those who have paid in advance for a driver assistance service like that provided by AAA wouldn't be allowed to wait for their own service and would still have to pay for the towing they didn't ask for.

Of course, not everybody likes the plan.

"Houstonians love their cars and those tow truck drivers better be careful," one motorist told the Los Angeles Times. "Somebody's going to get shot."

Speaking of outrageous Texas-sized ideas:

The Trans-Texas Corridor project, as envisioned by Republican Gov. Rick Perry, would be a 4,000-mile transportation network costing $175 billion over 50 years, financed mostly, if not entirely, with private money.

These would be megahighways — corridors up to one-quarter mile wide, consisting of as many as six lanes for cars and four for trucks, plus railroad tracks, oil and gas pipelines, water and other utility lines, even broadband transmission cables.

The Texas Transportation Commission last month opened negotiations with the Spain-based consortium Cintra to start the first phase of the project, a $7.5 billion, 800-mile corridor that would parallel Interstate 35 between Oklahoma and Mexico. Much of it would be financed through tolls.

--- Meanwhile, Japan is developing some of the latest driving technology, capable of zapping computerized data to millions of cars, delivering what may be the world's smartest way to drive.

Car Navigation systems tell drivers which roads have jams by using an FM radio broadcast to collect and send information from more than 28,000 infrared and radio wave beacons along the side of the road.

But only about a million cars — out of 70 million on Japanese roads — take advantage of it.

Reach Mike Leidemann at mleidemann@honoluluadveriser.com or 525-5460.