Macquarie conducting profit study of PA Turnpike

| Friday, September 08, 2006

Historically, the Pennsylvania Turnpike is credited with being the first stoplight-free U.S. highway system.

Recent talks of funding shortfalls and profit studies, particularly on an unfinished 100-mile stretch of the Mon-Fayette Expressway, could mean at least part of the turnpike is headed for privatization.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has OK’d a study by Australian toll operator and banking conglomerate Macquarie Group of Sydney, on whether the road could be profitable, commission officials told local media.

Macquarie is funding the study on its own dime as Pennsylvania struggles with a $3 billion funding shortfall in turnpike construction.

Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration has talked with private investors before, according to The Associated Press, on topics that include the possible lease of the turnpike.

Macquarie is a principal in several privatization deals for U.S. infrastructure.

Partnered with Cintra from Spain under the name ITR Concession Co., Macquarie holds half of the lease to the Indiana Toll Road . ITR paid $3.85 billion for the right to operate the toll road and collect the tolls for 75 years.

Macquarie, in a recent move to appease shareholders, put a portion of its U.S. assets, which also include the Chicago Skyway and the Dulles Expressway near Washington, D.C. , up for sale to a U.S.-based subsidiary in an effort to shed the moniker of “foreign” investor.

Any possible future deals in Pennsylvania would have to go through the General Assembly and the bidding process would have to remain open to other companies, according to the Pennsylvania DOT in local media reports.

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