Thursday, July 17, 2008

A damn fine reason

Plenty of truckers have called to complain about the shape some of our toll roads are in, including some that have been sold to foreign companies.

The public officials who are pushing the idea of tolling our roads say that this is a new way to fund highway building and maintenance. And many of those same officials say that private companies can do a better job than publically elected governments.

I say the proof is in the pudding. Or, to be more scientific about it, the best way to predict how people will behave in the future is to look at how those same people have behaved in the past.

I’ve heard from few if any people claiming that maintenance on Indiana’s Toll Road has improved under the private operators. One, I think, called to say some of the reports of how bad it is were exaggerated. But that’s the best call we’ve received about that road.

As for West Virginia, that state is pulling in more than enough money from its toll road to pay for keeping it in shape.

If the money coming in now isn’t enough to keep the West Virginia Turnpike in good shape, why would we believe a private company could take the same money, do better … and make a profit for shareholders?

I’ve heard people say private operators will have better efficiency, that they’ll find waste and cut it, and so on.

Well, we’ve had several roads go over to the private side, and I haven’t seen improved performance yet.

What I have seen is exactly what was predicted – the private companies cut back on service and increase rates.

So if we look at past behavior, what we see is poor performance on the part of the state, and poor performance on the part of private operators.

Want to know the difference between the two?

We can make changes in how the state is run. All state property is ultimately the responsibility of the legislature, which has to answer every election to the people.

Private companies don’t.

Beyond all the other good points made against privatization, that one point alone is a damn fine reason to keep our highway system in public hands.