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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Pssst, free money here!

Jay Bookman, deputy editorial page editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, likens toll-road leases such as Indiana's to Nigerian Internet scams in which foolish people think they are going to get "billions and billions in free money! Just step right up and sign here on the dotted line. . . ."

But of course, to make such an arrangement work, there's gotta be a sucker somewhere. Look in the mirror. You're it.

Think for a moment about the nature of toll roads. They depend on a captive market of travelers who have little or no choice but to pay extra to get where they need to go. That doesn't mean that tolls can't be an appropriate, useful way to finance roads. When travelers are tapped to finance the particular highway they use, a toll essentially becomes a users' fee, particularly if the tolls are removed once the project is paid off.

The concept of long-term leases, however, takes that approach to a whole 'nother level. In Indiana, Texas and elsewhere, government is putting its captive market of toll-paying travelers in the hands of a private company, which is free to generate new revenue by jacking those tolls higher than elected officials would dare.

[. . .]

The long-term leases offer a way for government to privatize a tax hike. Even worse, that higher tax will be paid solely by the users of those toll roads, while revenues from that project benefit the entire state.

Sort of like cigarette smokers who pay a special tax that benefits the entire state, or alcohol drinkers, or . . .

The flaw in Bookman's argument is that people do have a choice not to use the toll road. The alternative routes might not be as quick or convenient, but they are free. So a potential risk he doesn't mention is, that if toll-road fees get too high, drivers will make more use of the alternatives, creating traffic problems and infrastructure stresses in places that do not now have them.

Posted in: Hoosier lore


Tue, 04/17/2007 - 11:27am


hurry! hurry! hurry! Welcom to the PT Barbum/Harrison Square "Multiuse- multi-ethnic- multi-sex" BallPark!

come play "Nigerian Baseball" with our "starting line-up" of "Black Sox"-
Richard- the lead off man. Talrico on second" Who's on first?
Why "Nigerian Baseball"? Named for the e-mail scam of the same name , where unsuspecting dupes are bilked out of their hard earned money by a bunch of ethically challenged "flim-flam" men.
Guess who's left holding the bag after they're gone with your cash? You are!
fool me once- strike 1
fool me twice- strike 2
strike 3-you're outta there!
Cashy just struck out!
And as the local democrats and cubs fans say "just wait till next year.
Get some glasses, ump!
as the citizens empty the bench....

Steve Towsley
Tue, 04/17/2007 - 11:48am

>a toll essentially becomes a users' fee,
>particularly if the tolls are removed once
>the project is paid off.

There are a significant number of older Hoosiers who recall with irritation the fact that the so-called toll road was originally sold to residents with the attached promise that it WOULD cease to charge tolls once construction was paid for.

They've known for a long time who got suckered and by whom. For them, this is an unpleasant re-run.