File this in the “keep plugging away at it? folder, which is already bulging for free-marketeers here in North Carolina.

Back in 1991, we commissioned one of the John Locke Foundation?s first policy reports from Robert Poole at the Reason Foundation in California. Bob was tasked to examine North Carolina?s highway priorities, assessing the most promising opportunities for applying market-based pricing ? i.e. tollways ? to speed up needed projects and put them more on a user-pays principle.

Bob, an engineer by training and libertarian policy entrepreneur by career, conducted an exhaustive examination of project costs and benefits. He generated an excellent report that made the cause for tollways, particularly given the existence of then-new technologies for electronic toll collection (so as to reduce the traffic-snarling effects of coin-pitch toll booths), and then offered a specific list of recommended projects.

Now, more than 13 years later, North Carolina has a Turnpike Authority and it has just recommended four tollway projects: the Monroe Connector to link Charlotte?s beltline with the future U.S. 74 Bypass, the Garden Parkway on the other side of the region to link the beltline to freeways in Gaston County, a bypass and bridge project across the Cape Fear near Wilmington, and a new tollway to reroute some traffic in the congested Research Triangle Park and connect to I-540.

I glanced back at Bob?s list. Allowing for drift, for the many construction and changes in highway projects since 1991, it matched up remarkably well with what the state now seems like to do. All four are connectors that are part of or link up to larger projects Bob had recommended.

Since our CLI staffers are currently traveling with the Reason Foundation to discuss local-government reform across NC, now seems like a good time to celebrate the long and productive partnership between our two institutions. It?s also a good opportunity to point out that policy change can take a long time. You not only need to have good ideas. You need to have patience and persistence.