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Groups Opposed to Privatization of U.S. Highways Get Organized

A new coalition has been formed to "combat the growing trend toward the privatization or leasing of existing toll facilities to private investors." The coalition, Americans for a Strong National Highway Network, lead by the American Trucking Associations (ATA,, includes the American Automobile Association, the American Highway Users Alliance, the National Association of Truck Stop Operators, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

According to the ATA, the coalition is "designed to advance the rights of American motorists to travel on safe, reliable public roads; maintain a robust national highway network for the efficient transport of goods and the military; and to hold government accountable for ensuring financing is transparent, motivated by public good, and dedicated to transportation purposes."

Even before joining the coalition, the OOIDA was strong in its opposition to auctioning off part of the Interstate system and most recently the 75-year lease of the Indiana Toll Road. In its announcement of the coalition, the OOIDA cited remarks by its executive vice president, Todd Spencer, who feels that the leases will not eliminate existing infrastructure problems. "Rest assured the companies lining up to buy our roads aren't doing it out of the goodness of their hearts," he says. "They see longterm cash flows and guaranteed, healthy profits at the public's expense."

Bill Graves, ATA president and CEO is in agreement with Spencer. "The sale or lease of existing toll facilities generates revenue at great expense to taxpayers and the trucking industry and carries potential negative impacts on highway safety, security and the motoring public," he says. "We must consider the long-term impact privatization will have on our nation's transportation system and explore all available financing options to ensure that the government is motivated by public good and transportation purposes."

Weighing in on the political side is Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. "For the Bush administration, the rush to promote public-private partnerships is based in ideology, not a critical evaluation of how publicprivate partnerships might help meet the goal of an improved, integrated national transportation system and further the public interest," he says.

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