Trucking testifies against road privatization

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Trucking and transportation groups aired their concerns over profit-oriented public-private partnerships for highways before a congressional subcommittee May 24.

Overrelying on private highway funding undermines the best interest of highway users, Bill Graves, American Trucking Association president, told the House highways and transit subcommittee. “While private financing may be appropriate under some very limited circumstances, fuel taxes will continue to be the primary financing mechanism for highway projects well into the future,” Graves said.

Too many public officials have not dedicated transportation funding to transportation, said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “Of greatest concern is that officials at the U.S. DOT (Department of Transportation), with the blessing of the White House, are aggressively promoting the privatization of our highways,” Spencer said.

“They have spent an extraordinary amount of time, effort and taxpayer resources to persuade state governments to talk with private companies and to pass legislation to enable the sale of their roads,” Spencer said. OOIDA would not oppose private highway funding in certain cases — for example, if tolls are removed once the project is paid off, and if the contract excludes any noncompete clause that would prevent improvement of rival, free roads, he said.

Granted, the partnerships can be used to further road projects that might otherwise be delayed, said Greg Cohen, president of the American Highway Users Alliance, a coalition that includes both ATA and OOIDA. “However, we remain concerned that poor agreements, particularly involving long-term road leases, may present real threats to motorists,” Cohen said. “We also continue to be concerned by the unqualified support for PPPs from the Department of Transportation.”

Complete testimony is available at www.transportation.house.gov.