September 7, 2012


TX: Ready. Set. Go! Texas to open toll road with 85 mph speed limit, the highest in the US…The Texas Transportation Commission has approved a speed limit of 85 mph for a 41-mile toll road several miles east of the increasingly crowded Interstate 35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio…“The research is clear that when speed limits go up, fatalities go up,” said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. He said higher speed limits get people to their destinations faster, “but the trade-off is more crashes and more highway deaths.”…The state contract with the toll operator allows the state to collect a $67 million up-front cash payment or a percentage of the toll profits in the future if the speed limit is 80 mph or lower. At 85 mph, the cash payment balloons to $100 million or a higher percentage of toll revenues.  The Washington Post

NY: City Courts Investors to Fix Schools. Officials in Yonkers, N.Y., are looking to partner with investors to raise $1.7 billion for renovating the city’s crumbling public schools, in an unusual approach to education funding that is being watched by other cash-strapped school systems. U.S. school districts traditionally finance infrastructure improvements by issuing bonds backed by local tax revenue, and they routinely maintain facilities through their operating budgets. The Yonkers school district, which sits just north of New York City, is weighing plans to contract with investors to pay for improvements and maintenance for as long as 30 years on more than three dozen school buildings with an average age of 73. In exchange, the investors would receive a steady stream of payments from the city and the state—which helps fund the district. The investors also might be able to use school facilities after school hours for profit, sharing any proceeds with the district.  The Wall Street Journal

NJ: NJ moves to privatize lottery sales, marketing. Four companies interested in running portions of the New Jersey Lottery attended a mandatory information session Thursday, taking the first step toward privatization. The Treasury Department is looking to hand over sales and marketing operations to a vendor next year, with incentives to the vendor to boost sales. The vendor would be penalized if revenue falls below expectations and would realize bigger profits if it exceeds targets. The state would retain ownership of the lottery…New Jersey isn’t the only state looking into privatizing lottery programs. Indiana is set to complete a deal to privatize its lottery by Nov. 1. Pennsylvania is researching whether to outsource its lottery, and Illinois took its lottery private last year. In New Jersey, the selected vendor would be required to pay $120 million up front and sign a 15-year contract.  Philadelphia Inquirer

PA: Allentown’s tab for water sewer study tops $200,000. Allentown City Council learned Wednesday that the city has already spent $237,000 planning and studying Mayor Ed Pawlowski’s proposal to lease the city’s water and sewer systems to a private operator to head off a pensions-fueled fiscal crisis. The  figure was made public by Councilwoman Jeanette Eichenwald, who requested an accounting of the spending from the administration, and it came on the same night a citizens group presented a petition with 70 signatures requesting that council conduct an independent investigation of the proposal. The Morning Call