Monday, February 25, 2008

Transportation Secretary Peters uses pretzel logic and the 'war on terror' to push $400 billion network of privately funded toll roads and bridges

Arkansas governor says rural states unlikely to support toll roads


The Associated Press
Copyright 2008

WASHINGTON — While the federal transportation secretary says privately built toll roads can help meet states' transportation needs, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe says rural areas don't have the traffic counts that will justify their construction.

Speaking to the National Governors Association on Sunday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said private dollars are needed to meet highway needs, not just public funds that are subject to regular fights in Congress.

The nation's current highway funding law expires in September 2009. Peters suggested replacing the current funding plan with a $400 billion network of privately funded toll roads and bridges — saying many investors are willing to step in.

But Beebe said rural states don't generate enough traffic to justify private investment in toll roads and asked Peters why the United States was building roads overseas instead of making more funds available at home.

"Does the administration have any plans to increase the size of the pie?" Beebe asked.

Peters said the foreign infrastructure investments, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq, had played a significant role in keeping the United States safe from terrorists.

The Delta Regional Authority, meanwhile, said the federal government should give a higher priority to road projects that can help generate business. The agency is seeking its own funding stream and said it would like $18.5 billion to fund 3,843 miles of new roads, including 11 projects in Arkansas.

Rex Nelson, the federal co-chairman of the authority, said the agency also wasn't sure about Peters' interest in privately owned toll roads.

"Traffic count is certainly a concern for us," Nelson said.

© 2008 The Associated Press:

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