The Arizona Senate recently rejected bills that would have allowed new, state-owned roads to be constructed with private money as toll roads. Lets hope the idea resurfaces soon.
Toll roads make sense. They provide access to large sources of private capital a real boon to a financially strapped state. Arizona could get several highways built today without spending a penny, if it would simply let the private sector help.
Private companies tend to insist that roads be built where they are most needed, as opposed to building a bridge to nowhere. And, in an effort to hold down costs, roads are constructed well, but without needless bells and whistles that builders contracting with the bureaucracy are sometimes too anxious to build.
Private sector partners also assume some of the financial risk and thus have no incentive to underbid a project and come back for more funds later.
Finally, private sector companies bring new talent and innovation. For example, a privately held company recently solved a 30-year impasse that had prevented conclusion of the Paris, France ring road by building a tunnel under Versailles.
The weaknesses inherent in a tax-funded road system have shown themselves again and again. Congressional earmarks spend transportation funds on pet projects instead of truly needed ones. States cant collect enough from gas taxes to fund every road they need. Meanwhile, drivers suffer in rush-hour gridlock, waiting for the current funding system to solve todays problems in 20 to 50 years.
Twenty-one states are building toll roads. Arizona should follow suit.
Dr. Byron Schlomach is the director of the center for economic prosperity at the Goldwater Institute.
Goldwater Institute: Toll roads must be part of congestion strategy
Goldwater Institute: Tackling Gridlock
Arizona Daily Star: Senate rejects toll-road bill, OKs option