Former DOT secretary warns of ‘Traffic Armageddon’

| 4/10/2007

Now that he’s retired from his job as U.S. Department of Transportation secretary, Norman Y. Mineta is talking doom and gloom in an effort to promote private-sector financing of U.S. highways and infrastructure.

During a conference sponsored by private investors Tuesday, April 10, in Washington, DC, Mineta referred to under-funded roads and the increasing number of vehicles traveling on them as a disaster of epic proportions.

“The traffic in the U.S. is so bad that when people get behind the wheel, a single vision grips their mind: Traffic Armageddon,” Mineta said.

Mineta said the solution is public-private partnerships, otherwise known as privatization – the sale or long-term leasing of highways and infrastructure to private investors.

Mineta released several statements favoring privatization during his tenure as transportation secretary. After he retired, the U.S. DOT produced draft legislation for state lawmakers to use to win authority for privatizing highways.

The financial firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu sponsored the forum to garner support for private-sector financing of infrastructure.

Rod Nofziger, OOIDA director of government affairs, says the talk about congestion and budget shortages rings a familiar tune.

“Proponents of privatization and public-private partnerships have often used buzzwords such as ‘congestion’ and ‘gridlock’ to get the public’s attention,” Nofziger told Land Line. “The fact is that privatization of existing public roads and many of the public-private partnerships that have been proposed will actually induce congestion, not reduce it. The private companies putting up billions of dollars for highways are banking on high traffic volumes to ensure they are getting optimal returns on their investments.”

– By David Tanner, staff writer