FHWA moves hard left under pressure - rescinds grant to Ohio to study privatizing Turnpike

October 9, 2011
By Peter Samuel

Populist left Democrat congressmen scored points with their far-left and labor union base this week when they got the FHWA chief Victor Mendez to rescind $1.5m granted earlier in the year to study financial options for the Ohio Turnpike. Ohio will find its own money to continue with procurement of a consultant for the study which will look at a longterm concession lease or 'privatization' of the Turnpike - among various options.

So the result is purely political.

Mendez move to take back the small grant came after a bunch of Democrat congressmen - Tim Ryan, Marcia Fudge, Dennis Kucinich, Marcy Kaptur and Betty Sutton from northern Ohio - denounced Governor Kasich's plan to, as they put it, "sell off a state asset" and said in a letter to Mendez the use of the funds was "questionable use of federal taxpayer dollars."

The Democrats' letter said: "Using these funds to advance a privatization plan that could potentially severely cost drivers via increased tolls, threaten the job security of over 1,000 Ohioans, and drive up costs for local governments through increased maintenance costs of local roads is a questionable use of federal taxpayer dollars."

Just days later Mendez had FHWA write to Ohio DOT that his agency "has determined that the subsequent details outlined in the current scope of work don't meet the intent" of the program, and the grant was being withdrawn. Ohio was invited to "revise" the application in some unspecified way and they would "review it for eligibility."

Ohio DOT head Jerry Wray got Mendez on the telephone this week. He told reporters it was clear the FHWA administrator was "feeling some political pressure"  to withdraw the grant.

It would be pointless to pursue it further, he said.

The state would "find a way" to get the review done without federal money.

COMMENT: Interesting that these Democrat pols are now intent on publicizing their deep hostility to the notion of business operation of a toll facility - along with the crude characterization of the results as severely increased prices, lost jobs and fewer customers.

With that kind of thinking it's a wonder any kind of economic activity can be entrusted to investor owned business, rather than having it under their control as a government owned entity.

But of course they would hotly deny they are socialists!

Meanwhile the proclaimed socialists have gone to the right of the Ohian Dems. China and Vietnam have plenty of investor toll concessionaires of the kind being studied by Gov Kasich.

TOLLROADSnews 2011-10-08


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