When life hands you landslides, make your own private toll road detour. (Haven't you heard the saying?) Since February, a landslide has closed the A431 highway between Bristol and Bath in England, adding an extra hour to the commute. So one enterprising local guy built a road through a private field — the UK's private first toll road to open in more than a century.
Like most ideas this bizarre, it began one night in a bar. John Dinham had been letting local 4x4 drivers cut across his field to avoid the 23km detour. That's until drivers in cars with no business driving through fields started cutting through and getting stuck in the mud. To his drinking buddy Mike Watts, this sounded like an opportunity — specifically, a business opportunity.
Watts shelled out £150,000 — or about $250,000 — of his own money to build a 400m toll road through Dinham's field. Since he didn't have to go through the usual bureaucracy or adhere to strict road standards, the whole thing from idea to grand road opening took only three months. The road officially opened last Friday. Watts is charging £2 per car, though he has a long ways to go before turning a profit.
Watts' road might call to mind desire paths, the trodden paths in parks or lots created over time by people seeking the shortest distance between two points. My colleague Alissa Walker has written about how urban transit planners might do well to heed desire lines.
The local council in England has not officially encouraged Watts' private toll road, which almost certainly would not have been built so quickly through the usual channels. "The Council has no details to confirm the toll road design meets safety standards and no evidence that insurances are in place for any member of the public who use the private toll road," it said in a statement. " It awaits imminent receipt of Watts's retrospective planning application," added The Guardian.
For now, though, the road is open for business. [Guardian]