SPECIAL REPORT: OOIDA says privatization of interstates is ‘anti-American’

| 12/1/2006

Dec. 1, 2006 – The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is letting Pennsylvania officials know that leasing the state's roads to private companies is not only unacceptable, but un-American.

Proposals to sell the turnpike to private companies is a wrong-headed idea and to consider selling this national asset to foreign companies even more so, OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said.

He called the privatization proposal by Rep. Richard Geist, R-Altoona, a "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."

Geist has said his top priority will be legislation to authorize the private lease of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, similar to how the Indiana state government leased the Indiana Toll Road in mid-2006.

Spencer pointed to the private company behind those leases - Macquarie Infrastructure Group of Australia - which has half ownership in the Indiana Toll Road and Chicago Skyway, as well as 100-percent interest in the South Bay Expressway in San Diego and the Dulles Greenway in Virginia.

Spencer calls the proposed privatization of the nation's interstates, including Macquarie's expressed interest in leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike, New Jersey Turnpike and possibly even the Ohio Turnpike, a "pawn-shop mentality" by politicians.

"The Pennsylvania Turnpike is the nation's first superhighway," Spencer said. "Selling it to foreign interests is as un-American as it gets."

Macquarie paid $3.85 billion to Indiana in exchange for keeping the tolls for the next 75 years and controlling the operation and maintenance on the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road. The company leased the 8-mile Chicago Skyway for $1.83 billion.

Spencer urged truckers and the voting public to stay involved to make sure Pennsylvania doesn't take the same path.

"Selling the turnpike is akin to pawn-shop mentality, hock your assets for cash now, but pay big time down the road," Spencer said. "You can sure bet the investors lining up to buy the turnpike aren't a benevolent bunch. They won't be doing this out of the goodness of their hearts for the people of Pennsylvania."