Editorial: End reliance on toll roads

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Editorial: End reliance on toll roads
October 8, 2009
Dallas Morning News blog
In 2004, Gov. Rick Perry announced his plans to build the Trans Texas Corridor, and in 2009, it cost him an important endorsement from the Texas Farm Bureau. The TTC would have been funded using comprehensive development agreements, a form of privatized toll road arrangement. Opposition to the governor’s plan has been so widespread and heated that five years later, the Texas Department of Transportation has declared the TTC “dead.”

Road privatization offers a hard-to-resist “quick fix” for state politicians. But without adequate public protections, privatization can have hidden costs and big potential downsides. Private infrastructure deals are fraught with problems and often characterized by the same leveraging of debt, conflicts of interest and reckless shifting of risk that triggered the recent financial crisis.

To protect the public, Texas and its local governments should avoid privatization of existing roadways, and allow for private deals to construct new roadways only with the strongest protections to ensure transparency, full value for taxpayers and continued public control of transportation policy.

Melissa Cubria, advocate, Texas Public Interest Research Group, Austin