September 22, 2014


New study identifies 11 highway boondoggles across the country
A new report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) Education Fund identifies 11 examples of wasteful highway spending that are slated to cost at least $13 billion and are based on outdated assumptions of ever-increasing driving. The study calls on the federal and state governments to reprioritize scarce transportation dollars to other projects. “Americans have been driving less, but state and federal governments are still spending billions of dollars on highway expansion projects based on outdated and obsolete assumptions,” said Phineas Baxandall, Senior Analyst at U.S. PIRG and a co-author of the report. “The time has come to shift our resources to invest in 21st century priorities, like fixing our roads and bridges and providing more Americans with a wider range of transportation choices.” USPIRG

US infrastructure crisis drives toll road bankruptcy
One of the highest-profile US private toll road concessions is to seek bankruptcy protection, the latest sign of how a decline in traffic is threatening private investment in the crumbling US road network. The Indiana toll road company, backed by Spain’s Cintra and two funds managed by Australia’s Macquarie, has struggled under a $US5.8bn debt load and will file for bankruptcy on Monday. The decision to seek bankruptcy reflects rising indications that the century-long love affair between Americans and their cars might be cooling as young city dwellers are driving less. The fall in traffic volumes on US roads since 2004 has undercut the financial assumptions behind a series of deals devised in the middle of last decade during an infrastructure investment boom. Financial Times

Opinion: Don’t fall for boondoggle of privatizing VA health care
Republicans have tried to privatize Veterans Affairs health care since 1946. After 68 years, they are succeeding. In August, the VA was substantially privatized by Congress and President Obama — possibly 3 million of the 6.5 million veterans presently receiving VA care will get health care at private hospitals and clinics. Tens of billions of taxpayer dollars will be wasted. And we could lose the major example of cost effective health care in America. . . . Private care will cost taxpayers up to 30 percent more than VA health care, which is proven to be of better quality, with shorter appointment wait times than in the private sector. Patient satisfaction surveys are higher at the VA than at most private care facilities. It’s a bad law for veterans and taxpayers. But private care CEOs and stockholders will profit greatly. It is to last only two years but will be extended like every tax cut for the rich or corporations. Then conservatives will argue that VA hospitals should be closed because so few veterans are using them.

GA: Georgia DOT calls off privatization project
Sometimes, it costs government agencies more to privatize services than to do the work themselves. The Georgia Department of Transportation discovered that this week. The agency’s governing board pulled the plug on an effort to privatize janitorial services and landscaping at the state’s 17 highway rest areas and nine welcome centers after being told it would cost more to hire a private company.  Atlanta Informer

IL: The dirt on privatization
Privatize the school custodians! . . . .So CPS awarded the no-bid contract to Aramark. Yeah, that Aramark–the ones who also now have the contract for school lunches. Aramark can handle the oversight of custodial services–Aramark can nimbly send custodians hither and thither as needed, doling them out with speed and accuracy–Aramark can save us all money! . . . But let’s fast forward to now, and see what has crawled out of those dug-up dark corners and crevices in the search for privatization buried treasure. Roaches, rats, and now even bedbugs. . . .One teacher slipped on a floor that had had the wrong stuff used on it, her feet went right out from under her, she landed on her shoulder, couldn’t move her head–just as students were trooping in for the day.”Teacher’s bathroom smells so bad it is hard to use it at all.””Garbage cans disappeared, stuff has been broken. Bathrooms are atrocious, garbage not emptied despite girls putting in tampons and such. Broken stuff not getting fixed because not enough staff anymore. Graffiti not getting cleaned up. Garbage left in hallways and on stairs.”ChicagoNow (blog)