In that interview, Maloney cited the Indiana Toll Road, which is currently the largest private toll road in the U.S. In 2006, a Spanish-Australian consortium paid the state $3.8 billion to lease the 157-mile section of Interstate 80 for 75 years.
The current passenger vehicle cash toll for the 157-mile length of the highway is $9.40, according to the toll road's website -- nearly double the rate before the road was privatized.
In its 2009 report, "Private Roads, Public Costs," the U.S. Public Interest Research Group urged public officials to approach the idea of private roads with caution, advising that the long-term costs of such projects will likely outweigh any short-term benefits.
"Though these privatization deals seem to offer state officials a 'quick fix,' they often pose long-term threats to the public interest," the report said.
Key concerns in the study are states entering into long-term arrangements of 75 to 99 years, assuring that long-term toll revenues will far exceed the value of the roadway, and that, unlike public toll roads, profits are paid to shareholders rather than being applied to other road projects or maintenance.
"Though privatization may seem to offer short-term relief to transportation budget woes, it often has grave implications to the public," the U.S. PRIG report concluded.
Toll roads have been a controversial issue for years. Tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike are a frequent target of criticism for legislators from Mercer and Raleigh counties, who contend the tolls are an unfair tax on residents of those counties.
In the spring of 2011, plans to make U.S. 35 in Putnam and Mason counties a toll road in order to fund the completion of its upgrade to a four-lane highway collapsed in the face of protest from residents of those counties. The road remains unfinished.
Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.