John Stossel says Sell the Roads!

Under President Obama’s stimulus plan, the government will spend billions of your dollars building new roads and fixing old ones. They say they’ll do it efficiently. I say, bull; government has never before been efficient. It isn’t going to start now.

You had me at bull, John.

Rush hours from hell are not natural phenomena. They’re manmade — more precisely, politician-made. But what if commuting didn’t have to be a horrendous experience? What if, for example, someone wanted to add some lanes to a road or build an entirely new road?

It’s happening. Private road builders are doing it. They built a double-decker underground highway in Paris. A 45-minute trip now takes 10 minutes. Three hundred-fifty cameras watch for traffic delays or accidents. Once the camera detects a problem, a crew rushes to tow the obstacle away so traffic keeps moving.

It’s happening here, too.  A private developer added two lanes to an existing highway in the median in California.  No taxpayer money was used.  Drivers pay a toll to access the faster roadway.  Chicago leased the Chicago Skyway and Indiana leased the Indiana Toll Road to private companies.  The upside to Indiana?  Governor Daniels says “We received $4 billion, free and clear, no taxes, no debt left to our kids.”

Others don’t like the idea.  Plans in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas and Florida are off the table.  Why?

“Privatizing existing taxpayer infrastructure is not a solution for anybody,” Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon told me.

He also says that what Gov. Daniels did is wrong.

Daniels made money for the taxpayer. What’s wrong with that? I asked DeFazio.

“Money that the people of Indiana could have had in the future is going to go to a private company.”

“What money?” Daniels asks. “The toll road was losing money!”

The benefits of the private sector:

“When government runs things, it’s a monopoly, and it has no competition, and there’s no upside to doing a lot better job,” Daniels says. “That’s why we didn’t have, until this new situation, electronic tolling. People were still stopping, chucking quarters into baskets. Politicians never run things well.”

Why then do some congressman say you shouldn’t sell public highways? Gov. Daniels has an answer:

“There are people, frankly, in Congress, who can’t abide the thought that you might be able to pay for something without going down there and kissing their ring for the money.”

Quite a guy, my Governor.  We need more politicians to think like that.  Wonder if Kentucky Fried Chicken is going to fill any Indiana potholes?