The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is voicing vehement opposition to any efforts to sell Pennsylvania highways to private investors. “Proposals to sell the turnpike to private companies are un-American, and to consider selling this national asset to foreign companies is downright anti-American,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said in response to recent Pennsylvania politicians’ comments supporting the possible sale of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Spencer said that if the public were to scratch below the surface of this initiative, they would find a well-choreographed campaign being driven by foreign-based private interests. “The idea of selling the turnpike may sound good to some opportunistic politicians thinking in the here and now,” Spencer said, “but it certainly would not be a yellow brick road for the highway’s users who will be paying exorbitant tolls for years to come — or for Pennsylvanians who will see those tolls translate into higher prices at the checkout counter and more congestion on the commonwealth’s other highways.”
State Rep. Rick Geist, R-Altoona, has said that when the General Assembly reconvenes in January 2007, his top priority will be to introduce legislation that will allow private ownership of state highways. Similar deals recently have been signed in the Midwest, where a consortium led by the Macquarie Infrastructure Group of Australia has taken control of the Indiana Toll Road and Chicago Skyway for 75 and 99 years, respectively.
Macquarie also is in talks with New Jersey, Ohio and several other states regarding publicly owned toll roads, bridges and tunnels. Macquarie already has a 100-percent interest in the soon-to-open South Bay Expressway in San Diego and a 100-percent interest in the 14-mile Dulles Greenway in Virginia near Washington, D.C. Spencer said the primary motivation of these companies was the opportunity for long-term cash flows and large profits derived from high tolls and clauses restricting improvements to adjacent roadways.