Opinion: Beware Toll Road Privatization

Author, WSJ columnist and Huffington Post blogger Thomas Frank cautions against the public-private partnerships that are leasing public toll roads, warning that it isn't in the public interest; that they will become affordable only to the wealthy.

"During the Bush years, promoting these public-private partnerships (in transportation) became one of the great causes of the U.S. Department of Transportation. It was nothing less than a "revolution," Transportation Secretary Mary Peters exclaimed last June on her blog the Fast Lane. It was a "quiet revolution," she wrote, on which the administration planned to "turn up the volume."

"But there's good reason to be reluctant to privatize. It doesn't take an MBA to figure out that we didn't build our Interstate highways in order to create opportunities for venture capitalists. The purpose was public service.

Transferring them to the private sector, at the very least, complicates this mission. At worst it will effectively close those roads to the part of the population that can't afford the revolutionary tolls that private ownership will surely bring. The cost of, well, just about everything will start to rise as more pieces of the transportation system embrace their for-profit destiny and start charging whatever the desperate commuter will bear.

Wear and tear on the remaining public-sector roads will certainly increase as traffic is driven off the tollways."

Thanks to John Hartz

Full Story: Toll Roads Are Paved With Bad Intentions



So a road is privatized, and

So a road is privatized, and the owner decides to make as much money as possible. He'll raise the toll during peak periods when he can get away with it, reducing congestion and air pollution as a result, and then he'll lower the toll after rush hour. Taxes won't be used to pay for it, so people who don't drive won't have to subsidize the road for everyone else. Shipping companies take a second look at railroads, which are three times as fuel efficient as trucks, and with fewer trucks on the road there is less road wear. (A single semi tractor-trailer causes as much road wear as 9,600 cars.) People will carpool or travel before and after rush hour in order to save money on tolls, and this results in better lane utilization. Less road wear and better lane utilization means less money needs to be spent maintaining and widening the road than was needed before the road was privatized. In the end, we all save money.

Toll Road Privatization

Sounds like a good thing to me. Maybe the new "owners" of the road will expect the users to actually pay for what they use. After all isn't that what we expect of transit and train users? That they should pay for the service?

Tolls are good

This article presents privatization and tolling as some sort of given. I'm a big supporter of tolling the highways. With transponder technology alive and well there's no reason why the state shouldn't run the tolling operation. It's not rocket science, we already do it on all the bay area bridges.
MTC's proposal (T-2035 is still taking comments!) for making HOV lanes into HOT lanes is counter to it's own stated goal of reducing VMT. How can we increase capacity and reduce VMT? A much better solution would be to toll all the lanes EXCEPT for the HOV lanes, and designate the funding for only transportation related expenditures (road maintenance, BRT, expanding local transit, etc.)
It seems like tolling is the only real solution which will address transportation and climate change, and provide another incentive for folks to get out of their cars.

i totally agree guys. Its

i totally agree guys. Its absurd that the same people who argue for less sprawl, less pollution, and more use of public transit, are the same that argue that we should raise taxes to subsidize the exact opposite--highways. If people who use highways want to pay for it, great. But for those who don't, don't make them pay for those who do, including large corporations that put lots of wear and tear on roads to ship their goods from China.

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