Planning NAFTA Superhighways
at the End of the Age of Oil
Road Scholar Dictionary
state by state list
Eugene Parkway (OR)
Inter County Connector
Trans Texas Corridors
I-5 (Wash, Oregon, Calif.)
Corridors of the Future
other new superhighways
Over Water: fix existing roads
Lexus Lanes (High Occupancy Toll)
Federal Highway Laws
Bush, Clinton, Bush highway bills
Presidents Johnson & Nixon
FHWA Environmental Guidebook
Purpose and Need
Environmental Impact Statements
Avoidance and Mitigation
FHWA regulations: Title 23
20 year requirement
Section 4(f) protects parks
Land & Water Conservation Fund
National Forest Roads
LUTRAQ (Portland, OR)
the limits of smart growth
transit, urban density and Peak Oil
Peak Oil &
Oil Depletion Protocol
compromise is unnecessary
Radio Frequency ID (RFID)
geoslavery: GPS tracking
The J. Edgar Hoover highway:
civil liberties and
this page is under construction
By Emily Thornton
Roads To Riches
Why investors are clamoring to take over America's highways, bridges,
and airports—and why the public should be nervous
Indiana's Experience with Tolling and Privatization
movie about the planned Trans Texas Corridor superhighways (in opposition)
April 20, 2007, 1:42AM
Senate votes to put brakes on private toll roads
By GARY SCHARRER
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau
AUSTIN — The Texas Senate voted unanimously Thursday for a two-year
moratorium on private company toll roads — although stopping those
projects won't solve the state's bulging highway needs, a leading lawmaker
The House already approved a similar measure in a nearly unanimous vote,
reflecting considerable public angst over the possibility of transferring
public assets to private companies.
Fifty years ago, almost all major corporations and wealthy individuals
in the United States paid a hefty chunk of their income in local, state,
and federal taxes. Those tax dollars, in turn, helped build and maintain
roads and bridges, sewers and schools, airports and harbors — what
economists call our “public infrastructure.”
This tax-and-spend cycle helped keep America both relatively equal and
efficient. The taxes on high incomes discouraged grand accumulations
of private wealth. The spending on infrastructure encouraged economic
growth and opportunity.
In today’s United States, unfortunately, this cycle no longer spins.
The wealthy no longer pay hefty taxes. Local, state, and federal governments
no longer invest in infrastructure. Yesterday’s United States built
bridges. Today’s builds fortunes.
And now those private fortunes are taking aim at America’s public
infrastructure. Wall Street bankers and investment firms, Business Week
reports in a thoroughly unnerving cover story, are rushing to raise cash
for public infrastructure buyouts.
Investors can’t get in fast enough,” Business Week notes. “They
recently deluged Goldman Sachs with $6.5 billion for its new infrastructure
fund, more than twice the $3 billion it was seeking.”
The buyout artists at outfits like Goldman Sachs, Business Week estimates,
will soon have $500 billion to wave before governors and lawmakers “scrambling
for cash to solve short-term fiscal problems.”
These governors and lawmakers, unwilling to tax the rich to maintain
America’s roads, are now taking bids to sell these roads to the
In Harrisburg, for instance, Democratic Governor Edward Rendell is busy
privatizing the 537-mile Pennsylvania Turnpike. Last year, in Indiana,
state lawmakers cut a $3.8 billion deal that gives private investors
a 75-year lease to run the Indiana Toll Road.
In all, $7 billion worth of public infrastructure has gone private over
the last two years. The next two years, Business Week predicts, could
see “$100 billion worth of public property” turn private.
Why the investor rush to public infrastructure? Leases to run toll roads
and bridges amount to licenses to print money. Government highway officials
need to win public approval before they can raise tolls. Private road
managements can charge whatever tolls the market can bear.
Tolls on the Chicago Skyway stood at $2 in 2005, the year the road became
the first modern thoroughfare to go private. The Skyway toll, investors
expect, will hit $5 by 2017.
Private investors have, of course, other ways to squeeze earnings out
of infrastructure. They can skimp on maintenance — or attack worker
wages. Toll-takers on the Chicago Skyway, Business Week points out, “used
to be full-time city employees with rich benefits.” The Skyway’s
new private operators now run their show with a mostly part-time, no-benefit
Higher tolls, cheaper workforces. Do the math. Wall Street analysts certainly
have. They now see infrastructure, notes Business Week, “as a separate
asset class, safe like high-grade bonds but with stock market-like returns.”
In today’s America, the ultra-affluent are having an increasingly
hard time getting those returns from marketing private-sector products
and services to an increasingly overindebted American middle class.
Middle class Americans, our deepest pockets have figured out, are already
paying for public-sector products and services, and these affluents have
convinced themselves that they richly deserve a piece of this public
payment pie. In a deeply unequal America, with ever-greater pools of
wealth concentrating at the top, they so far seem to have the dollars — and
the power — to get it.
Stat of the Week
Wall Street's top 20 hedge and private equity fund managers, notes the
new Forbes annual corporate pay report, averaged $658 million in take-home
last year, over four times the $145 million average pay of America's
top 20 corporate CEOs.
About Too Much
Too Much is published by the Council on International and Public Affairs,
a nonprofit research and education group founded in 1954.
Office: Suite 3C, 777 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017.
E-mail: editor @ toomuchonline.org.
Jan. 26 2007
Toll Road Giant Buys Newspapers to Silence Critics
Critics charge that the Macquarie purchase of American Consolidated Media
is designed to silence critics of a Texas toll road project.
Australian toll road giant Macquarie agreed Wednesday to purchase forty
local newspapers, primarily in Texas and Oklahoma, for $80 million. Macquarie
Bank is Australia's largest capital raising firm and has invested billions
in purchasing roads in the US, Canada and UK. Most recently the company
joined with Cintra Concesiones of Spain in a controversial 75-year lease
of the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road.
Sal Costello, the leading opponent of toll road projects as head of the
Texas Toll Party, says the move is directly related to a 4000-mile toll
road project known as the Trans-Texas Corridor. It will cost between $145
and $183 billion to construct the road, expected to be up to 1200 feet
wide, requiring the acquisition of 9000 square miles of land in the areas
through which it will pass.
"The newspapers are the main communication tool for many of the rural
Texan communities, with many citizens at risk of losing their homes and
farms through eminent domain," Costello wrote.
Many of the small papers purchased, most have a circulation of 5000 or
less, have been critical of the Trans-Texas Corridor. An article in the
Bonham Journal for example, states, "The toll roads will be under
control of foreign investors, which more than frustrates Texans."
Texas Report Shows Toll Roads Not Needed
Texas Transportation Institute report suggests indexing the gas tax
to inflation would eliminate the need for toll roads.
A new Texas Transportation Institute report suggests future road funding
can be more efficiently raised through existing gasoline taxes without
the need for adding a complex toll road infrastructure. Transportation
researchers Tim Lomax and David Ellis presented the study to the Texas
legislature's Study Commission on Transportation Financing on November
28. It looked at the transportation needs of the states eight largest
metropolitan areas and found an extra $44 billion in new road capacity
would be needed over the next 25 years, a number substantially different
from the one the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has been using
to promote the expansion of tolling in the state.
"We recognize that there have been a lot of different numbers thrown
around as to the level of need regarding transportation improvement,"
The new data suggest that TxDOT overestimated the amount of money needed
for new construction by $30 billion, causing officials to claim an increase
in the gas tax of $1.20 to $3.00 a gallon would be the only alternative
to imposing tolls.
Ellis explained that simply indexing the gas tax to inflation would cover
the increase in construction cost. A modest increase in the tax would
avoid the need to issue bonds to cover expenses. The study did not consider
the option of devoting all of the gas tax money solely to transportation
projects as a means of increasing transportation funding without a tax
increase. The Texas state constitution mandates 25 percent in gas tax
funds be diverted from transportation to shore up the public school system.
With an indexed gas tax, the public education provision will take $50
billion away from road construction by 2030.
"An existing tax structure always costs less than an additional unaccountable
tax on something we've already purchased," wrote Texas Toll Party
founder Sal Costello, a strong opponent of toll roads.
A full copy of the report is available in a 1.4mb PDF file at the source
Source: Shaping the Competitive Advantage of Texas Metropolitan Regions
(Texas Transportation Institute, 11/28/2006)
Pay-to-drive roads scam an idea that takes its toll
Published: Monday, June 26, 2006
Toll roads, we are told, are a great new 21st century idea guaranteeing
a future free of gridlock.
A vigorous effort is under way in Virginia and Maryland to create privately
financed toll roads that would allow those who pay to commute from the
suburbs to the nation's capital without a single traffic jam. The cost?
About $30, billed to your credit card. Existing roads would remain free
- and congested.
"We're creating choices that are not otherwise possible,"
Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert Flanagan told The Washington
Post. "By using variable tolling, you can use a market mechanism
to keep those lanes relatively congestion free."
Translation? "We deliberately price some motorists off the highways
so those who do pay experience less congestion." It is not coincidental
that this anti-egalitarian "experiment" is being conducted
in the bubble that surrounds Washington, D.C.
Toll roads are not new. They are a preindustrial idea that failed during
the rapid growth of the Industrial Age when the local, state and federal
governments took over the responsibility for providing a comprehensive,
integrated transportation system. The revival of toll roads is not going
over well in other parts of the country.
The state of Indiana - it calls itself the Crossroads of America - just
agreed to lease the existing, publicly owned Indiana Toll Road to an
Australian-Spanish consortium for the next 75 years for $3.8 billion.
This is a radical departure from past practice, even in a country that
still operates toll bridges and some expensive-to-maintain publicly
owned toll roads in the East and Middle Atlantic states.
Leasing the Indiana Toll Road to foreign owners is the brainchild of
Gov. Mitchell Daniels, not incidentally the Bush administration's first
budget director, where he apparently got this idea. Daniels says he
is "astonished" by the passionate opposition the lease unleashed.
Daniels promises the $3.8 billion in lease loot will go to reduce the
backlog of new highway projects, and that it will create jobs and bring
new industry to invigorate Indiana's sagging economy.
Daniels' critics insist the public got a bad deal. Motorists will still
pay tolls on the toll road and gas taxes to maintain the newly constructed
roads. Driving in Indiana will become more expensive, not less. Daniels'
approval rating has nose-dived from about 50 percent last winter to
37 percent in recent polls.
Oregon also is flirting with privately financed highway projects, including
a bypass of Newberg and Dundee in Yamhill County paid for by tolls.
A company that builds the toll road might also be paid by granting development
rights along the right-of-way, much like the Transcontinental Railroad
was financed with land grants in the mid-1800s.
Private financing of a transportation project by granting development
rights has already been done once in Oregon, but it did not involve
a highway. The Bechtel Corp. built an extension of a light rail line
to the Portland Airport in exchange for development rights on 120 acres
along the right-of-way.
But the motive behind the Bechtel scheme was not really gaining private
financing. The motive was avoiding a public vote on the debt necessary
to finance the light rail extension if it was built by the government.
And that is the dirty little secret behind the latest fascination with
toll roads - it avoids public votes on potentially controversial highway
Most states, including Oregon, have constitutionally set debt limits.
Exceeding the debt limit requires voter approval. In 2001, Oregon's
Republican-controlled Legislature financed the Oregon Transportation
Investment Act - pork barrel highway projects disguised beneath a real
need to repair Oregon's aging bridges and make them earthquake resistant
- by pledging future gasoline tax revenues to pay off the bonds instead
of pledging the "full faith and credit" of the state, which
requires a public vote to exceed the state's debt limit.
Now, the Legislature and state transportation officials find their future
gasoline revenues already are spent. They are forced to consider scams
like toll roads. Another scam with the same motive is charging highway
taxes by the mile, which discriminates against efficient cars.
Why the determined effort to avoid a vote on highway projects?
New highway projects are controversial because it is increasingly clear
that the post-World War II highway system that produced the post-World
War II suburban sprawl is not sustainable as petroleum gets more expensive.
Yet, well-entrenched interests that profit from sprawl are unlikely
to give up their privileged positions gracefully.
That is why they are so anxious to avoid a public debate about trying
to finance a highway system that is no longer affordable. They do not
want a serious discussion of alternatives.
And that is why Oregon is among the states planning to go backward in
the future by talking toll roads.
Political commentator Russell Sadler lives in Eugene.