As President Obama continues to build his cabinet, I don’t like what I am hearing from his nominee to the Transportation Department. In this Wall Street Journal story, they say that he is making the case to give a bigger role to the private sector in rebuilding our roads and bridges. Here is a quote from the story:
“There’s not going to be enough money,” Mr. LaHood told the Senate Commerce Committee. “I think we do have to think outside the box.”
Now I agree that there is not enough money for all the necessary transportation projects, but how is this thinking outside the box? Allowing private investors to build, operate and maintain new toll roads and bridges is very dangerous to our economy.
In another story, Mr. LaHood gives his endorsement for more toll roads. This is such a short sighted strategy to “fix” our long term transportation problems. State governments are desperate to make up their budget gaps and these large upfront payments look very attractive. Unfortunately, as time goes, by the private investors enjoy steady returns on their investment from hard working commuters.
Here is one such example where a foreign corporation contributes less than $350 million to a $1.9 billion taxpayer funded project, yet they are set to enjoy 80 years of profit from the tolls. The private company will build High Occupancy Toll lanes on the Capital Beltway in Northern Virginia. Once the lanes are completed in 4 years, drivers will be charged $1 a mile during rush hours. Are you kidding me, who can afford this on a daily basis?
I have written a few other posts on how much I despise tolls. They are one of the most inefficient ways to fund a road and they greatly contribute to traffic, accidents and additional carbon emissions. Once erected, they never come down and the prices rise with little or no control from the people who actually use the roads.
Since when is building more tolls and sticking commuters with the bill considered “thinking outside the box”? The answer can not be to just build additional transportation infrastructure since we continue to always exceed the capacity of our roadways. Real innovative thinking will produce solutions that cut our consumption and conserve energy. Don’t you agree?
photo credit: richardmasoner