Hey, anybody up for reopening the debate over the toll road lease?
Sure, the state of Indiana got $3.8 billion by leasing management of the Indiana Toll Road to a private concessionaire.
That isn’t pocket change, and the funds have been put toward improvement of Indiana’s infrastructure per the state’s 10-year Major Moves road plan.
A public policy expert’s new review of the 2006 deal, though, casts doubt on whether the transaction is all it’s cracked up to be. Indeed, John Gilmour, a government professor at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., says future generations of Hoosiers will be short-changed.
As he sees it, Indiana has essentially taken a lump sum payment here and now on the value of the toll road — akin to a home-equity loan — for short- and medium-term benefit. Down the road, in decades to come, he argues, Hoosiers of the future will pay the price for the 75-year deal in the form of lost toll road revenue that otherwise would have made its way into government coffers.
The position we took on our editorial page was that, while there's nothing inherently wrong with such privatization, 75 years is an awfully long time to obligate Hoosiers to. That point is what this study zeroes in on, too, pointing out that most of the benefits will be used up early with most of the costs coming due later.
Too late to worry about this deal, of course, but the point of debate now is to take a little more care with the next one.