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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Turnpike leasing gets another look

Editorial in the Lancaster New Era on a Turnpike lease takes to task the fearmongers opposing the idea:

Are opponents skeptical, or fearful, of turning the turnpike over to private management?

They should check out the policy terrain and see whether officials in Indiana and Illinois are happy with their decision to lease major public roadways.

Are opponents worried about the details?

Fine, reserve judgment until Rendell rolls out the guidelines under which private managers will bid for the lease. The guidelines, to be sent out to 14 financial consortiums, are expected this month.

Concerned that Pennsylvanians will pay more under this deal than under the I-80 tolling plan? Or that the turnpike will be allowed to fall into disrepair?

Both are unlikely, given that substantial toll increases are expected under present government management and that the lease agreement would cap increases and require road maintenance.

So what's left?

Oh, yeah, the "foreign ownership" canard. ...

In our view, the concern about "foreign ownership" is phony because the lease holder would be the road's manager, not its owner.

It's self-defeating because it would only shrink the pool of potential bidders and likely shrink the deal's potential as a moneymaker for the state.

And, gosh, it makes Pennsylvania look silly.

We have lots of foreign companies employing lots of Pennsylvanians. To have leasing the turnpike hinge on whether the state permits foreign management would send a poor signal to any similar employers looking to set up shop in Pennsylvania.

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