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Government Looks at Privatized Highways

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Coming soon to a highway near you: The Coca-Cola Refreshing Taste Make Every Drop Count Turnpike.

The Department of Transportation is considering one of the most fundamental shifts in national transportation policy since Dwight Eisenhower helped create the interstate highway system.

The DOT wants to take the government out of the role of funding and maintaining roads and private highways and turn the responsibility over to the private sector. Individuals and businesses would be able to buy and control portions of road, making profits by charging tolls at certain checkpoints.

The idea of such road privatization has been met with widespread skepticism by both Democrats and Republicans. Although the federal and state governments would save money by turning over responsibility for so much infrastructure, the public would likely end up paying the cost.

The Government Accountability Office speculates that tolls on private roads would be more widespread and expensive because private companies would be responsible for returning a profit to investors.

The higher the toll — especially on roads that people can’t avoid driving on — the higher the profit. Because drivers can’t always pick and choose their routes (the commute to work, for example), they would have no choice but to pay the toll, or perhaps spend more on gas if the alternative route is longer.

What do you think? Should roads be handed over to business instead of government?

Letting the Market Drive Transportation (The Washington Post)

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