Mineta says tolls, privatization could resolve freight delays, congestion

| 5/17/2006

The U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said solutions to traffic jams and freight delays could include more toll roads and private leases for U.S. infrastructure.

Mineta stated on the DOT Web site that he hopes states will enact legislation to create public-private partnerships, as outlined in his new initiative, the “National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America’s Transportation Network.”

Mineta admitted the solutions could be considered controversial. Click here to read it.

Public-private partnerships in states like Illinois and Indiana have resulted in for-profit, foreign investors taking over toll roads through long-term leases – 99 years for the Chicago Skyway and 75 years for the Indiana toll Road.

On the DOT Web site, officials use the $1.8 billion Chicago Skyway lease and the proposed $3.85 billion Indiana Toll Road lease – both to the Spanish-Australian consortium known as Cintra-Macquarie – as examples of “growing interest of private sector capital investors in the U.S. transportation system.”

Mineta highlighted a six-point plan to relieve congestion in urban and port areas, and to encourage private investment in the transportation system.

Highlights of that plan include:

  • tolls, also known as “congestion pricing;”
  • creating more express busing;
  • using agreements with large employers to increase telecommuting;
  • removal of federal barriers on states that seek private-sector investment in transportation; using pilot programs for things like tolling; and
  • using the SAFETEA-LU, the highway funding legislation signed by President Bush in August 2005, to encourage public-private partnerships.

– By David Tanner