Here’s another best-of, from Halloween 2007…
In just about every state, taxes on fuels pay for highway and road maintenance. In some states, there are also toll roads, created by law, and funded by the tolls collected on them. These toll roads are supposed to be maintained by the tolls, as well. In many cases, those funds are being used in the manner intended, but in some cases, we have to wonder.
There’s a new creative solution from the Federal Highway administration and the Department of Transportation called “Public-Private Partnerships“, where states are leasing out, or selling off infrastructure, like freeways, highways, toll roads, bridges, and if they have their way, even public utilities to the highest bidder.
There’s a website detailing how states can change their constitutions and laws, to enable selling off their public infrastructure to private organizations.
So who would want to buy up American infrastructure? Well, remember last February, when Dubai Ports World tried to buy up a major US port? Foreign nationals are buying up American infrastructure at an ever increasing pace. In June of 2006, the Indiana Toll Road was leased to a conglomerate of Australian and Spanish interests, for $3.8 Billion. The same conglomerate bought a 99 year lease for $1.83 Billion for the 8 mile Chicago Skyway. And they’re currently fighting for the right to buy or lease State Highway 121 outside of Dallas.
So what are the results, so far, in these deals? In Indiana, the tolls have doubled, and the state can’t do a thing to change it. They’re bound by a no-compete clause that prevents them from building competing infrastructure (in plain english, “Another Road”) in the same area, and they can’t back out of the deal, without reimbursing the buyer for lost profits for the term of the lease. In Chicago, toll rates have risen, and are expected to rise to $5 (from a starting toll of $2, when the deal was consummated).
Looking at the deals that have been done, and the deals that are coming down the pike, you see some faces cropping up in almost predictable ways. Mary Peters used to be the director of Transportation in Arizona, which she left, to join a company who’s purpose in life is to privatize state infrastructure. Mary chose David James Gribbin to join her in this work, after his work promoting the idea of Public-Private Partnerships. He was nominated as chief counsel to the Federal Highway Administration in January of 2007. So, the foxes are guarding the hen house on this one.
Just like the thought of Dubai owning US ports, The idea of foreign nationals owning and operating critical infrastructure in this country should be something that is at least publicly debated. Who’s to say that the companies running these infrastructure projects may not have our best interests at heart? What of the possibility of terrorist action against infrastructure? Is this really in our best interest?
- Public reject government road tolls plan – Confused.com (confused.com)
- Ex-transportation official pitches plan for private companies to widen Route 3 south, recoup costs with tolls (boston.com)
- New study says Indiana Toll Road 75-year lease was bad deal (posttrib.suntimes.com)
- New study says Indiana Toll Road lease bad deal (posttrib.suntimes.com)
- Texas highway 130 unveils highest speed limit in America (smartsign.com)