If the Pennsylvania Turnpike becomes a private toll road,
some international heavy hitters will have already lined up to bid on it.
International media are reporting that Macquarie
Infrastructure Group of Australia is interested in a potential long-term lease,
but it isn't the only global infrastructure investor getting in line.
Cintra Concessiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte SA of Spain, which has previously partnered with Macquarie on long-term leases for the Indiana Toll Road
and the Chicago Skyway, is among the companies interested in bidding for a
similar lease in Pennsylvania, according to European news sources.
And Spanish toll company Abertis has arrived stateside in an
effort to cash in on the U.S. toll-road market. Abertis is reportedly
interested in a long-term lease in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell recently announced a proposal
to solicit bids from toll operators for the 537-mile turnpike, best known for
being the oldest superhighway in the U.S.
A total of three Spanish companies were mentioned in a
Madrid news story as having interest in a privatized Pennsylvania Turnpike,
namely Abertis Infraestructuras SA, Cintra Concessiones de Infraestructuras de
Transporte SA, and Fomento de Construccion y Contratas.
These companies are willing to shell out big cash up front
for the right to pocket the toll revenue from long-term leases.
Cintra and Macquarie Infrastructure Group, for example, are
50-50 partners in the $3.85-billion lease of the Indiana Toll Road and the
$1.83-billion Chicago Skyway lease.
Truckers and the general public haven't let the notion of
privatized U.S. highways sit well.
Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator
Independent Drivers Association - with 147,000 members in the U.S. and Canada - said states taking short-term cash in exchange for long-term leases will pay a
price in the long run.
"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."