May 23, 2012
“With Congress unwilling to contemplate an increase in the federal gas tax, motorists are likely to be paying ever more tolls as the government searches for ways to repair and expand the nation’s congested highways,” the Associated Press reports.
In 2011, California, Washington, Texas and Indiana made it easier to collect tolls on state and local roads, USA Today reported. Texas passed laws authorizing private toll roads while Indiana removed a provision requiring legislative approval for toll roads, thus sidestepping opposition by citizens who would have undoubtedly voted down tolls if given the chance.
Toll road franchises in Texas and Indiana are owned by Cintra, a Spanish company that is one of the largest private developers of transport infrastructure in the world. Goldman Sachs earns tens of millions of dollars on Indiana’s toll roads and also advises states on how to privatize their public highway infrastructure.
Predictably, “quasi-governmental agencies operating outside the public eye” are notorious for corruption and mismanagement. “Tolls are hardly a perfect solution. But to many states and communities, they’re the best option available,” the AP concludes.
Instead of cutting budgets and reducing the size of government in order to pay for maintaining necessary public infrastructure, state governments have turned to squeezing more money out of beleaguered motorists.
As a result, shunpiking – avoiding turnpikes and toll roads – will undoubtedly increase traffic and wear on non-toll roads now that government has decided to impose tolls and sell off public infrastructure to private interests.