Mineta says more privatization of highways is needed

| 5/24/2006

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta continued to push for more privatization of U.S. infrastructure, including highways, during a visit to the NASDAQ market in New York City.

During that visit on Tuesday, May 23, Mineta said traffic jams waste 2.3 billion gallons of fuel and 3.7 billion hours each year, and cost the economy $9.7 billion each year.

The speech was part of a campaign called the National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America’s Transportation Network.

Mineta called upon financial, construction and engineering firms to invest in the privatization of highways, airports and transit as a way to reduce congestion.

Privatization on the ground could include toll roads, truck-only toll lanes, high-occupancy vehicle lanes, bypasses and alternate routes.

“Private capital will give those communities willing to embrace it an opportunity to augment public funds in order to complete critical transit and highway projects,” Mineta stated on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Web site, www.dot.gov.

“Congestion doesn’t have to be a fact of life. We are not going to let transportation be the chokepoint of our economic activities.”

Mineta’s speech Tuesday at NASDAQ was just one of the many recent talks of privatization around the country.

A few states away in Indiana, a lawsuit challenging the private lease the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road could set important precedents as states clamor to unload infrastructure to the highest bidders.

Cintra-Macquarie from Spain and Australia has offered Indiana $3.85 billion in cash for the right to collect tolls and operate the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years.

A judge could be ruling on a court challenge of the deal any day now. That challenge, launched by residents and activists, is being funded chiefly by truckers and includes backing from OOIDA.

– By David Tanner, staff writer