Wednesday, November 29, 2006

“Selling the turnpike is akin to pawn-shop mentality, hock your assets for cash now, but pay big time down the road.”

OOIDA calls proposals to sell turnpike to private company 'un-American'

Nov. 29, 2006

The Trucker
Copyright 2006

GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. –– The national association representing the country’s professional truck drivers, including more than 7,200 small business trucking professionals from Pennsylvania, is voicing vehement opposition to any efforts to sell Pennsylvania highways to private investors.

In response to recent Pennsylvania politicians’ comments supporting the possible sale of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Todd Spencer, Executive Vice-President of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) said his organization believed that proposals to sell the turnpike to private companies are “un-American and to consider selling this national asset to foreign companies is downright anti-American.”

Spencer said that if the public were to scratch below the surface of this initiative they would find a well-choreographed campaign being driven by foreign-based private interests.

“The idea of selling the turnpike may sound good to some opportunistic politicians thinking in the here and now,” Spencer said, “but it certainly would not be a yellow-brick road for the highway’s users who will be paying exorbitant tolls for years to come or for Pennsylvanians who will see those tolls translate into higher prices at the checkout counter and more congestion on the commonwealth’s other highways.”

State Rep. Rick Geist, R-Altoona, said last week that when the General Assembly reconvenes in January 2007 his top priority will be to introduce legislation that will allow private ownership of state highways. Geist intends his legislation to open the door for the effective sale of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Similar deals have recently been signed in the Midwest where a consortium led by the Macquarie Infrastructure Group of Australia has taken control of the Indiana Toll Road and Chicago Skyway for 75 and 99 years, respectively. Macquarie is also in talks with New Jersey, Ohio and several other states regarding publicly owned toll roads, bridges and tunnels.

Macquarie already has a 100-percent interest in the soon-to-open South Bay Expressway in San Diego and a 100-percent interest in the 14-mile Dulles Greenway in Virginia near Washington.

“Selling the turnpike is akin to pawn-shop mentality, hock your assets for cash now, but pay big time down the road,” Spencer said. “You can sure bet the investors lining up to buy the turnpike aren’t a benevolent bunch. They won’t be doing this out of the goodness of their hearts for the people of Pennsylvania.”

Spencer said the primary motivation of these companies was the opportunity for long-term cash flows and large profits derived from high tolls and clauses restricting improvements to adjacent roadways.

— The Trucker News Services

© 2006 Trucker Publications, Inc.: