Montgomery County Executive Neal Potter elevated a few eyebrows recently with his idea for raising highway construction money: Put coded strips on automobiles, like the UPC bars found on consumer goods, he said, and as the vehicles pass scanners on designated toll roads, a computer could read the code and bill the driver's account.
His idea sounded like a scene from "Star Trek, or perhaps, "Car Trek." But it's not that far-out.
In six months, the Maryland Transportation Authority plans to set up scanners at a Harbor Tunnel toll booth and will ask a small number of commuters to take part in a test of the equipment. New Orleans, Dallas and Oklahoma City are already using the technology.
When it comes to snarled highways, Mr. Potter's county is in the most dire straits of any in the state. Montgomery is to receive about $300 million from the governor's transportation fund, but that isn't a total solution. And Montgomery's own $1 billion, 10-year capital program increasingly must reserve more money for schools and less for roads.