July 6, 2015

11 Most Expensive Toll Roads in America. . . When Interstate Highway System was introduced in the 1950s, it seemed that toll days are over, as federal regulation forbade toll collection on the roads built with federal money. However, this position was abandoned in the 1970s and states were free again to introduce tolls to fund road construction and maintenance. Despite huge network of tolls booths and the substantial amount of money that is collected through them, US still failed to make it onto the list of the 11 countries with the best roads in the world. To be quite honest though, United States do have the most extensive road network in the world and keeping it in order requires vast quantities of money. Insider Monkey

Charter Schools Are Mired in Fraud and Failure. The inadequacies of charter schools have been confirmed by many recent studies. Even CREDO, which is part of a conservative think tank funded by the pro-privatization Walton Foundation, recently found that in comparison to traditional public schools “students in Ohio charter schools perform worse in both reading and mathematics.” Another recent CREDO study of California schools reached mixed results, with charters showing higher scores in reading but lower scores in math. AlterNet

Stop treating citizens as consumers – opinion. . . When people are framed as consumers, society becomes little more than a marketplace. Social problems get treated with individualized, market-oriented solutions — where each consumer-citizen is solely responsible for spotting deceptive practices and avoiding unfair schemes — instead of collective, rights-based protections. For instance, protecting against predatory financial institutions and data brokers is a duty largely shouldered by individuals, who must remain ever vigilant against companies that hide in the shadows and track our every move. The more marginalized and vulnerable you are, the more likely you are to be targeted and the less likely you are able to defend yourself. Al Jazeera America

PA: Wolf vetoes GOP liquor privatization bill. Gov. Tom Wolf said he vetoed legislation that would close the state’s liquor stores and permit private sales because it was not a “responsible means” of overhauling Pennsylvania’s liquor system and because it would hit Pennsylvanians in the pocketbook. “It makes bad business sense for the Commonwealth and consumers to sell off an asset, especially before maximizing its value,” Mr. Wolf said. “During consideration of this legislation, it became abundantly clear that this plan would result in higher prices for consumers.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

TX: Toll road projects in limbo following legislative session. The Texas Legislature began this year’s session with a major case of toll fatigue. After more than a decade of letting local and state planners partially fund large highway projects through toll collections, most lawmakers had little appetite left for such projects. Some talked openly about scrapping many tolls already in place. Five months later, the state’s vast toll network remains intact, but the prospects for new toll projects have dimmed. In Dallas, Austin and San Antonio, major highway projects originally planned with toll lanes are in limbo as local officials try to work out the path ahead, according to lawmakers and state officials with knowledge of the projects. San Marcos Mercury

VA: Va. spends $260 million on unbuilt road, says it could’ve been worse. After paying a private company more than a quarter-billion dollars for a road that was never built, Virginia officials say they’ve reached an agreement for a modest refund. US 460 Mobility Partners . . . “It could have been a whole lot worse,” said Aubrey Layne, the state’s top transportation official. Layne said that a deal reached by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s administration left the state exposed, noting that 460 Mobility had been arguing that it was due an additional $103 million from the commonwealth. “Quite frankly, they probably would have won in litigation. The contract really did favor them,” Layne said. A spokeswoman for 460 Mobility said the company was “pleased to have reached an agreement to bring an amicable resolution” to the project. Washington Post

VA: McAuliffe signs bill that protects taxpayers in public-private deals. Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a settlement on what he described as a “disastrous” U.S. 460 project Thursday before ceremonially signing a bill that takes the burden off taxpayers if a future transportation collaboration falls through. Under the Public-Private Transportation Act, which was passed by the General Assembly this spring, a committee will be set up to vet projects before financing is acquired and accountability will lie with government officials, McAuliffe said. The Virginian-Pilot

CT: State mulls using private companies to fix roads, rail and bridges. A state panel charged with finding ways to fund a $100 billion upgrade of the state’s roads, rails and bridges on Tuesday received a crash course in how to partner with private companies and the highway tolls which typically fund the projects. Connecticut Post

MA: State poised to add hundreds of spots to city charter schools. ‎The state Education Department is poised to add hundreds of charter school seats in Boston, potentially loosening the logjam in a city where thousands of children remain on waiting lists. Boston Globe

NC: Company involved in I-77 toll lanes eyes early exit from Chicago operation. While business and civic leaders from the Charlotte area were traveling to Raleigh this week to voice opposition to the proposed toll lanes for Interstate 77, one of the companies contracted for that project has been looking to sell off its toll-road operation in Chicago. A report published by the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday outlines the situation unfolding there. An investor group formed by Cintra Infraestructura and the Macquarie Group is trying to sell its interest in operating the Chicago Skyway, a 7.8-mile stretch of toll road on the south side of the Windy City, according to that newspaper. Charlotte Business Journal

OH: Legislators push school privatization with little public input. . . “The academic distress commission has been redesigned and granted more powers,” State Senator Peggy Lehner (R- 6th District) explained. Kettering Senator Lehner says Governor John Kasich requested she lead this effort, as is custom for committee chairs. For schools that have failed 3 years in a row, primarily Youngstown School District, they’d see the most changes. The commission would have the power to privatize the district. A C.E.O would be hired, and could remove the elected education board and suspend a union and some of its collective bargaining agreements. For many education unions, they say this was a last-minute effort that shut out the public and union officials. WDTN

OH: Privatization of second Ohio prison authorized by state lawmakers. State lawmakers on Tuesday approved legislation to allow the sale of a second Ohio prison. House Bill 238, which cleared a final House vote, would put the North Central Correctional Institution in Marion on the auction block. Gov. John Kasich intends to sign the legislation, according to gubernatorial spokesman Rob Nichols. The money from the sale will be spent on initiatives to develop alternatives to prison for convicts, according to state prisons agency spokeswoman JoEllen Smith. cleveland.com

DC: Privatize Metro? Be careful what you wish for. With all of Metro’s problems handling emergencies and running day-to-day service, it’s only natural that the riders who follow my online chat would raise the possibility of an outside entity taking over the D.C. region’s transit system. Most comments suggested turning it over to a private company. But they should be careful what they wish for.   Washington Post (blog)