Transportation secretary Nathan Hayward is
no slouch when it comes to pushing ideas that fall somewhere
between the radical and the revolutionary. So it comes as little
surprise that he apparently has locked onto the possibility of
'privatizing' the Delaware Turnpike, the Delaware 1 toll road
and possibly the to-be-built-someday U.S. 301 toll road. If the
General Assembly goes along, Delaware would join a handful of
jurisdictions around the nation that are using or thinking about
using that method of transportation infrastructure financing.
which Hayward has cited is the Chicago Skyway, an elevated toll
road which connects the turnpike across northern Indiana with
the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago. Closer to home, the New
Jersey Turnpike is being eyed as a future possibility. The
arrangement has been widely used for several years in Europe and
developed areas of Asia.
it works with an existing highway: An investment group pays to
purchase the highway or lease it for a long period of time. It
recoups the investment and makes a continuing profit from toll
revenue and tax writeoffs for depreciation. In the Chicago
example, a consortium of Cintra Concesiones, a Spanish company,
and a unit of Macquarie Bank, a multinational financial
institution headquartered in Australia, put up $3.8 billion for
a 99-year lease deal.
acknowledged that Delaware probably is not in that league --
although the Turnpike is a vital segment of Interstate 95, the
artery which connects New York and Washington -- but he did use
the 'B' word after the dollar sign. That sum resting in an
endowment fund managed the same way the state employee pension
fund is managed would generate sufficient annual income to cover
a good portion of the state's transportation capital expenses.
it's a given that tolls will increase. Hayward said the amount
of increase can be controlled by terms of the contract covering
the deal. Having a private company boost tolls is considered
more politically palatable than the state legislature or a quasipublic authority doing it. Moreover, most of the people
using the Delaware toll roads -- particularly, the turnpike --
come from elsewhere.
some idea of how sweet the deal would be for the successful
bidder for the lease, just imagine where you would stand today
if you -- or your great-grandpappy -- had been able to buy Ford
Motor stock back in 1906. On the other hand, the horseless
carriage may not make it to 2104 when our descendents may be
moving about by electronic dispatchocarters or some such.
think this is all futuristic, consider Concord, Kennett and
Newport-Gap Pikes. They started out in the 19th century as
privately-owned toll roads, built and operated by profit-making
entities. Hayward said it is not likely that he or anyone else
would propose converting an existing free highway into a toll
receptive will legislators be if and when highway privatization
ends up in Governor Minner's fiscal 2006 capital budget
proposal? What happened at what was billed as the climatic
meeting of the committee she set up to address Delaware
Department of Transportation's financial problems provides a
clue. Mostly lawmakers among the committee members batted around
some possibilities, but in the end decided, as Delaforum
reported, not to make any recommendations but to 'present the
options' and the pros and cons which go with each of them and
let the governor and her staff decide what to recommend for
appeared resigned to that consensus for the moment. The closest
he came to a reaction was to note that, other than
privatization, the specific options on the table, even if
combined, would yield comparatively small change against the
scope of the problem.
which stood out in the presentation at the meeting about the
scope of the problem was $2,279,793,000 -- again, the 'B' word.
That, it was said, is the cumulative total of the annual
shortfalls during the next five fiscal years between continued
capital financing at the fiscal 2006 level adjusted for
inflation and what will be needed to complete projects currently
in various stages of planning, design and construction. It
obviously was advanced as the proverbial worst-case scenario,
rather than intended as a realistic projection.
this year, there was a good deal of consternation among
transportation savvy civic activists and affected interest
groups when DelDOT, in response to administration budget cutting
and parameters set by the Assembly's 'bond bill' committee,
lopped several pet projects from the current plan. Included was
the long-sought expansion of the Tyler McConnell crossing of the
Brandywine and a new road through Delaware Park to connect
Churchmans Crossing and Kirkwood Highway.
Area Planning Council, the agency designated to present the
public's voice in transportation planning, raised a mild fuss.
However, ather than risk loss of federal money for projects
which still remained in the DelDOT plan, it twice revised its
approved transportation improvement program plan to reflect what
had happened. The council is not likely to play more than a
token role, if that, in determining what happens now.
of the current problem, according to DelDOT, is that the
Assembly has consistently raided the highway trust fund
established in the 1980s to channel the state motor fuel tax to
capital spending for transportation to finance a large chunk of
DelDOT's operations and for other purposes.
prevent the same thing happening to an endowment from
privatization proceeds? Hayward suggests embedding a 'poison
pill' in federal legislation the Delaware congressional
delegation would have to seek to prevent Delaware from having to
give back federal money used to finance building the roads that
are privatized. A future Assembly, he reasons, would be most
reluctant to mess with the terms of the deal if it meant owing
Uncle Sam big time bucks.
tight. We're in for quite a ride when the Assembly returns in
January to deal with an issue which significantly affects most
Delawareans on almost a daily basis. As Hayward put it, "Not
many of us have switched to riding skateboards yet."
to read the Delaforum article about the transportation financing
to read a recent article on
highway privatization from the Indianapolis Star
County Council will repeal
provisions in the recently enacted
property maintenance code limiting the storage of boats and recreational
vehicles in residential areas or suspend their enforcement.
If you want to be British you jolly well ought
to know how to be British. That bit of logic is behind a new
requirement to obtain British citizenship and might well serve
as an example on this side of the Atlantic.
to read a Washington Post
article about what's being done to promote Britishness.
shotgun-wielding hunter mercilessly pursues his target. Angry
space aliens vaporize a defenseless town. A bloodthirsty shark
preys on the weak and tiny. These movie scenes aren't from the
latest action thrillers -- they from G-rated animated films like
Disney's new "Chicken Little."