From the July 2006 Idaho Observer:
Foreigners buying up U.S. roads and bridges
Taxpayer-financed infrastructure being sold off to
generate revenue for cash-strapped jurisdictions
"On a single day in June, 2006, an Australian-Spanish partnership paid $3.8 billion to lease the Indiana Toll Road. An Australian company bought a 99-year lease on Virginia’s Pocahontas Parkway, and Texas officials decided to let a Spanish-American partnership build and run a toll road from Austin to Seguin for 50 years. Few people know that the tolls from the U.S. side of the tunnel between Detroit and Windsor, Canada, go to a subsidiary of an Australian company — which also owns a bridge in Alabama," stated the lead in the July 15, 2006 article by NewsMax.
Some think privatizing public infrastructure like roads and bridges is a good idea because private enterprise is more efficient than government, but they question the intelligence of selling them to foreign companies. Still others wonder what gives government the authority to sell roads and bridges built with public money—to anyone.
The trend of governments selling public roads and bridges is fueled by mismanaged jurisdictions that cannot tax enough revenue out of people to provide services and keep vital infrastructure in good working order. Selling roads and bridges seems like a good idea because investors are willing to pay high prices for them and the money can be used to finance urgent public works projects and pay for improving the ones still in the public domain. According to NewMax, "Last year, Chicago sold a 99-year lease on the eight-mile Chicago Skyway for $1.83 billion. The buyer was the same consortium that leased the Indiana Toll Road — Macquarie Infrastructure Group of Sydney, Australia, and Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte of Madrid, Spain."
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who championed his state’s toll road deal, now wants investors to build and operate a toll road from Indianapolis to Evansville. Patrick Bauer, the Indiana House’s Democratic leader, says such deals are taxpayer rip-offs. Bauer believes Macquarie-Cintra could make $133 billion over the 75-year life of the Indiana Toll Road lease — for which Indiana got $3.8 billion. "In five, maybe 10 years, all that money is gone, and the tolls keep rising and the money keeps flowing into the foreign coffers," Bauer said.
About half the states have changed their laws to allow private companies to own and operate roads and bridges because it is expected that the Federal Highway Fund will dry up by 2010.
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