November 19, 2014


The Indiana Toll Road and the Dark Side of Privately Financed Highways. . . Once hailed as the model for a new age of U.S. infrastructure, today the Indiana deal looks more like a canary in a coal mine. At a time when government and Wall Street are raring to team up on privately financed infrastructure, a look at the Indiana Toll Road reveals several of the red flags to beware in all such deals: an opaque agreement based on proprietary information the public cannot access; a profit-making strategy by the private financier that relies on securitization and fees, divorced from the actual infrastructure product or service; and faulty assumptions underpinning the initial investment, which can incur huge public expense down the line. Though made in the name of innovation and efficiency, private finance deals are often more expensive than conventional bonding, threatening to suck money from taxpayers while propping up infrastructure projects that should never get built. Streetsblog Capitol Hill (blog)

House Panel Considers Privatizing FAA’s Air Traffic Control System. Opening what promises to be a spirited debate, members of the House Transportation Committee signaled a renewed willingness to consider privatizing the nation’s air-traffic control system. Capping months of studies and deliberations about possible privatization by industry officials and outside experts, a hearing on Tuesday morning highlighted bipartisan support for taking up the issue as part of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill. Wall Street Journal

Postal Workers Push Back Against Privatization and Post Office Closures. Union workers at the U.S. Postal Service staged one of their largest national demonstrations to date November 14, protesting fresh job cuts and continuing efforts to privatize some post office operations. With rallies at more than 150 locations nationwide, the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) called for a cancellation of plans to close 82 mail processing centers early next year and the reversal of broader privatization efforts that eliminate good union jobs. In These Times

NJ: Toll collector jobs on Parkway, Turnpike spared from privatization. Jersey Turnpike Authority officials said Tuesday they won’t privatize cash toll collections. Collectors have their supervisors to thanks for their new job security. Concessions agreed to by two unions presenting Turnpike and Garden State Parkway toll supervisors provided enough savings so that officials didn’t have to ask toll collectors for a second round of pay cuts, said Joseph Mrozek, Turnpike Authority executive director. The Star-Ledger

WI: Wisconsin DOT budget plan includes study for toll roads. Over two years, Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb also wants to borrow more than $805 million, study the feasibility of tolling and use $574 million in funds that typically go toward schools and health care. Under another part of Gottlieb’s plan, the state Department of Transportation would gather odometer readings when drivers register their vehicles each year — a move that would help it review whether the state should create a new fee based on how many miles people drive. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel