Road Scholar home page

Peak Traffic:
Planning NAFTA Superhighways
at the End of the Age of Oil

Road Scholar Dictionary

Freeway fights:
state by state list
West Eugene Parkway (OR)
Inter County Connector (MD)

NAFTA Superhighways
Trans Texas Corridors
I-5 (Wash, Oregon, Calif.)

Corridors of the Future

other new superhighways

Troubled Bridges Over Water: fix existing roads

toll roads
Lexus Lanes (High Occupancy Toll)

Federal Highway Laws
Bush, Clinton, Bush highway bills
environmental groups

Presidents Johnson & Nixon
FHWA Environmental Guidebook
Understanding NEPA
Purpose and Need
Environmental Impact Statements
Avoidance and Mitigation
Logical Termini
FHWA regulations: Title 23
20 year requirement
Section 4(f) protects parks
Land & Water Conservation Fund
Clean Water
Clean Air
Endangered Species
Environmental Justice

National Forest Roads

LUTRAQ (Portland, OR)
the limits of smart growth
transit, urban density and Peak Oil

relocalization everywhere
car sharing
mass transit
inter-city trains


Peak Oil &
Climate Change
Oil Depletion Protocol

Habitat fragmentation
compromise is unnecessary

electronic tollroads
Radio Frequency ID (RFID)
geoslavery: GPS tracking

The J. Edgar Hoover highway:
civil liberties and
transportation surveillance

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
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 warned.
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 rich.
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 workforce.
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 @
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," Ellis said.
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 link below.
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 projects.
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.