Privatization of roads and bridges weighed in Massachusetts

| 11/2/2007

A leading state lawmaker in Massachusetts is calling for officials in the state to look into the possibility of privatizing roads and bridges.

Senate President Therese Murray said she wants the state to consider leasing or selling roads or bridges to private groups. Contracting with private business would help eat into a $19 billion transportation funding crisis in the state, she told the Boston Herald.

Murray didn’t go so far as to endorse privatization of roads and bridges. But she said privatizing assets, such as the Massachusetts Turnpike, should be analyzed before lawmakers call for boosting the state’s fuel tax rate or implementing new per-mile tolls on state highways.

Discussion about privatizing transportation assets is one option legislators are considering. Gov. Deval Patrick has been lukewarm on the idea but his administration is conducting its own review to evaluate leasing or selling roadways, among other money-generating options.

Advocates say allowing private groups to take over such assets is an appealing option because it can pump tens of billions of dollars into the state in up-front payments. Critics say privatizing roads and bridges actually can lead to higher fees charged to users.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Massachusetts in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor