How Are Privately-Owned Highways Working Out?

I know that California has a privately owned highway, and I think Indiana sold their turnpike to a private firm. Anyone know how well these roads compare to state run highways?
Here in MA, the corrupt state government does a horrible job of maintaining the roads, the MA Turnpike Authority (which operated the 150 mile turnpike) id saddled with political hacks and incompetents, and cannot maintain the reoad. Is there any evidence that selling these highways to private entities results in better service and lower costs?

The Dulles Greenway in Loudoun County, VA, is a privately-owned toll road in the Virginia exurbs of D.C. It’s had to raise its tolls repeatedly to stay afloat, and according to the Wikipedia article, more large increases are in its future.

From a free-market standpoint, I suppose just the fact of the road’s existence and continued profitability at any level of toll would count as a success. But it’s doubtful that they could have gotten the right-of-way on that basis. Nobody expected that the tolls would be as high as they are. And of course the existence of that road stands in the way of the building of a public road over the same route.

Actually, Indiana “leased” the Toll Road, which traverses the northern part of the state, to an international group for 75 years at huge profit for the state; the current governor promises that this money will be used primarily to build and maintain highways within the state. The Toll Road is part of a crucial route connecting Chicago with points east, including Cleveland and New York.

It may be too soon to say if the new group provides better service than the State as it’s only been about a year since the deal went down. They did just raise the toll, which had not been raised in many years.

I’m fighting the urge to point out all the bigger problems and questions raised by the sale or “lease” :rolleyes: of national infrastructure, be it highways or public services usually (or formerly) provided by government. Let’s see how this thread goes and maybe it will lead to the creation of another.


Earlier thread on the subject.

It’s mixed in Indiana. On one hand the state has more money free, and the lease netted them a few extra billion on the other hand the toll road is getting hit with rate hikes.

As a 34-year California driver, I feel I have the standing to declare that toll-roads are an abomination unto the Lord (except that I’m an American, and I don’t have any use for aristocracy, or aristocratic titles). So I merely declare that they are an abomination.

One of the more abominable aspects is when they are accompanied by competition-busting conditions, such that the public road-building-and-maintaining authorities are legally enjoined from making improvements to the parallel roads that are open to all drivers.

Why? AIUI the historical reason that there are far more toll roads in the East vice the West is because the East coast states built them before there were Federal highway subsidies. As such, they had to raise money with bond issues that were to be paid off by road tolls.

I’ve known older people who are still bitter about the way that states jumping onto the bandwagon early thus got shafted when the national highway system became a Federal priority. If people want to end tolls, the time to have done that was while building up all the toll-free interstates. Now you’re going against the Civil Service employees associations if you try to cut those jobs.

Of course, for systems like, say, the Mass Pike, it was supposed to be paid off years ago. But we all know how readily states give up revenue sources. One of the darker reasons I’d heard for the push for the Big Dig was that by tying that project to Turnpike tolls they’d be able to keep jobs for the toll collectors on the road.

For a completely biased, self-serving, yet informative viewpoint, here’s a section from the annual report of the Ohio Turnpike Commission. (Warning: pdf)

A couple of interesting points in the report. The Ohio Turnpike had an operating surplus of $27 million, but is uising it to fund $48 million in capital improvements. Also, it actually reduced the tolls charged on trucks, to help lure long-haul trucks to the turnpike and away from other roads.

if the good old federal government would pull their heads out of their asses and build the roads the smart way in the first place I dont think privatized roads would be worth the effort. but since the Feds insist on doing everything the worst way possible I can see private roads working well.

All the FHWA people I’ve known are quite interested in delivering the best product to the travelling public at the lowest cost. Precisely what is the “smart way” of which you speak?

The newest toll-road here in the Richmond area is the Pocahontas Parkway (895). It was built by a private company and is now owned by a firm in Australia (IIRC). It is a fiscal disaster - I’ve never seen more than a dozen cars on it at any one time and the tolls just went up again.

Seconded. Anything substantive to be added to that screed?

Suppose you get into an accident 9caused by a pothole). can you sue the operator? Are they liable for hazardous conditions? Private highways (“turnpikes”) were common in the eastern USA, before the federal gov. took over the highways. So, the business model exists.
Incidentally, how is the stet of NH allowed to charge toll, on the interstste highways?

The same way Massachusetts, New York, and Pennasylvania can all charge tolls on the roads they built with public bond monies prior to the Federal gov’t getting big into subsidizing the Interstate system. I-90 is a US Interstate Highway. It’s also the Mass Turnpike and the NYS Thruway (well, part of it). I-76 is the Penna Turnpike, and is also part of the Interstate system. All these roads get Federal monies, now, to help with expansion and upkeep, AIUI.

However, because all these roads started as state initiative funded by bond acts, before the inception of the Federal Interstates. So, they were incorporated in the routes, but never got the same financial support as later roads for building them.