Neal Peirce looks at new ideas for financing roadway improvements, including leasing toll roads to private companies and on-board computer monitoring of actual road use.
"Global finance firms are salivating over the prospect of long-term revenue streams from toll-road deals. Forty-eight firms have submitted 'expressions of interest' in the Pennsylvania Turnpike, reports transportation expert C. Kenneth Orski."
"So critics are clearly right in asking: Are the leases a good deal? The long-term proceeds of the Indiana Toll Road lease to its investors, according to one independent analysis, could run as high as $11.83 billion, not a bad return on their upfront $3.85 billion."
"One thing's certain - the voters are turning highly suspicious. Take the case of Indiana's [Gov. Mitch] Daniels. He's been obliged to abandon his high-powered campaign for yet another toll road - a new privately built, $1.5 billion, 75-mile roadway plowing through rural territory south and east of Indianapolis."
"Opponents also claim it's a bad idea to lease roads to private firms whose interest is their own profits - not serving the public interest. Private firms, they allege, will 'cherry pick' profitable routes, leaving government to support other roads. Truly smart governments, they contend, could raise just as much money as private concession leases."
"But can we do better in this century than a patchwork of road funding and repair fixes?"