Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mike Pence’s Private Indiana Interstate is Failing – Like Pence Himself

Conservatives Just Will Not Learn

The idea of privatizing America’s roads has strong support among conservatives. It gets government and taxes out of the road business, promotes private companies who can make big campaign contributions and still allows them to boast of improving infrastructure.  But the idea that a private company can do for less cost what government can do has many failures to discredit it.  And now the WSJ showcases one such disaster, an interstate between Bloomington and Martinsville in Indiana which was championed by then Gov. Mike Pence.

Construction delays on I-69 have frustrated residents and businesses near the still-incomplete road, who are tired of traffic congestion.
Construction delays on I-69 have frustrated residents and businesses near the still-incomplete road, who are tired of traffic congestion. PHOTO: AJ MAST FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The project, a partnership between the state and private investors, was signed by Vice President Mike Pence in 2014 when he was the state’s governor. It is two years behind schedule and only 60% built. The state is in the process of taking it over and will have to issue debt to finish it.

“It became clear that the only way to ensure completion in a reasonable time frame would be to put it back under the state’s control,” said Stephanie Wilson, spokeswoman for current Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb.

And no, the project is not to complete an interstate link.  Even after it is built Interstate 69  will not be a full link from southern Indiana through Bloomington to Indianapolis.

Now major projects fail all the time.  The problem is that failure doesn’t lead to anyone learning that maybe, just maybe, involving a private company which not only has to bear the construction costs but also make a profit can do a better job than a well run government.  Sure there have been successes, nothing is all bad but

There have been some notable public-private failures. Toll-road partnerships in Alabama, Texas and California declared bankruptcy in recent years after revenue from tolls used to finance these projects fell short of projections. Indiana’s first major public-private partnership, a deal with Ferrovial S.A.’s subsidiary Cintra to operate the Indiana Toll Road, fell into bankruptcy after revenue missed targets. It has since been bought by new owners.

And in case anyone still has doubts about the concept, there is this.

President Donald Trump is calling for $1 trillion in infrastructure investments over the next decade—funded mostly from the private sector—to upgrade America’s roads, bridges, ports, airports and railroads.

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