Trucking Assoc hails mystery US Senate bills against tollroad privatization

April 25, 2009

American Trucking Associations (ATA) issued a statement Friday titled "ATA Applauds the Introduction of Anti-privatization Legislation" before the text of the bills (S884 and S885) were released, or any announcement made by the sponsors of the bills, suggesting ATA has an inside role. Sponsors of the bills according to the ATA are US Senators Jeff Bingaman (Dem NM) and Chuck Grassley (Repub IO).

The websites of the senators have no reference to either anti-tollroad privatization bill and those senators have made no statements or announcements as of Friday evening. The Library of Congress website named Thomas, the only public source on bills in the US Congress, has only this:

Title: A bill to amend title 23, United States Code, to remove privatized highway miles as a factor in apportioning highway funding."

Title: A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide special depreciation and amortization rules for highway and related property subject to long-term leases, and for other purposes."

It says the text of the bills has not yet been received. (see nearby)

Text of ATA anti-privatization applause statement

The full ATA statement on the mystery bills is:

"FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                Contact: Clayton Boyce
April 24, 2009                                                                    703-838-7902; 703-408-3716
"ATA Applauds the Introduction of Anti-privatization Legislation
"Arlington, Va. – The American Trucking Associations (ATA) applauds U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) for their introduction of the “Transportation Access for All Americans Act,” (S. 885) and the “Transportation Equity for All Americans Act” (S. 884) on April 24.
"The legislation will eliminate expensive federal subsidies that now flow to privatized highways. When a state or city leases a highway, it receives significant compensation, but taxpayers always end up paying higher tolls to the private operator.
“I would like to thank Senator Bingaman and Senator Grassley for their leadership,” says ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “We look forward to working with both gentlemen on this critical issue,” he added.
"Privatization is dismantling the nation's interstate highway network. The United States cannot maintain a national highway network if key segments are leased to the highest bidder. More than money is at stake. Leasing roadways allows states only to postpone, not solve, their budget problems—and without understanding the long-term implications."

COMMENT: It is unclear whether the bills do what Graves claims they do, although he seems to be privy to their details before anyone else.

However Graves' statements against privatization are absurd.

The Chicago Skyway and the Indiana Toll Road are just as much a part of the interstate highway network now as they were when they were operated by the City of Chicago and the Indiana DOT.

Private operators depend for most of their traffic on continuing to be part of a network so why would they want to separate from it, even if their concessions allowed that, which they don't.

This is empty demagoguery.

Of course leasing of roads doesn't solve states' budgetary problems which are way bigger than road finance, but it does allow them to tap private capital and expertise and to shift some traffic risk to investors from taxpayers.

If tollroads can be operated more efficiently then costs and tolls can be lower.

It is pathetic that a private sector trade group of truckers is pandering to the silliest anti-market prejudices and supporting entrenched government monopoly.

By Graves' logic we should be nationalizing US trucking, ending fragmentation of trucking operations and developing an integrated publicly owned and controlled national trucking network.

TOLLROADSnews 2009-04-24 GRAPHICS ADDED 2009-04-25

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