Roads Scholarship on Unbossed

If we Americans love our cars and the call of the open road, the same cannot be said for the process of building those roads. But this week Unbossed is going to show you why we should be paying attention.

As a nation, we depend on a well functioning system of roads. Anything that harms that system will damage our country.

Road building is highly politicized and political. The laws that affect road building The process of planning roads, acquiring land, and building roads involves wads of money from many sources – public and private. Where there is money, there is the temptation for corruption. And in so many of our states today, the bank is empty. How can new roads be built under these circumstances? Can the private sector step forward to fill this gap?

On July 29, 2005, the Senate passed the new highway bill 91-4 and the House approved it 412-8. Buried within the $286.4 billion transportation bill is an allocation of $15 billion for a highway bond plan that was promoted by Senators Jim Talent, R-Missouri, and Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, to public-private partnerships to build roads and bridges.

Public-private partnerships have been promoted by groups whose ultimate goal is privatization. So far privatized roads in the US have not been successful. These public-private roads projects are intended to test ways to make privatization work. Fortunately, we have some examples of private-public roads projects already in existence. They provide a basis for predicting how these projects will play out.

This week Unbossed is launching a series of pieces that examine this subject broadly, but it will begin by looking at the State of Colorado and at one project in particular – Toll Road E-470.

E-470 has been hailed as a model for the public-private partnership. But if it is a model, is it a model we would support?

Investigative work by the Unbossed team has uncovered information about E-470 not known by the general public. This is information that, if known, is likely to make no friends for private roads.

But this is not just a story about Colorado or about one road. Given the importance of this issue to our nation, we have invited guest bloggers to fill us in on issues involving other states and on the policies and politics involved.

Here are some of the topics you can expect to see covered starting this week:

What is the true cost of toll roads?

How can we fund road construction? Through new taxes? Or other sources?

What happens when funds from the private sector are used?

Do citizens know what deals are made and what they stand to lose and gain in the process of building roads? Are important decisions and their consequences being kept from the public? Are our citizens in danger of decisions being made by secret government?

What should be in a citizens bill of rights concerning road building?

How did we do our research, and how can you do more.

What is the role of right wing think tanks in road building? How has the media treated their ideas?

Is the power of eminent domain being used as more of a land grab than to build roads?

How do toll roads change the balance of power? Will the growth of new electronic tolling technologies create strong groups who will have the power to lobby for road building that is not in the public’s interest?

Incidentally, this series is not the first foray by Unbossed into the issue of toll roads and road building. For related posts, see:

In Colorado, Corporations Can Condemn Your Property

Toll Roads, Privatization, and Taxes – Connect the DOTs – Part I

Toll Roads, Privatization, and Taxes – Connect the DOTs – Part II

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