NOTE: I'm writing this one for a local issue, but you can extrapolate the lesson to all of the government spending insanity we face across the country. There are politicians here jumping up and down and screaming, "WE NEED A TOLL ROAD." They claim it will be a "pay as you go" project. They claim the tolls will eventually go away once the project is paid for. Are you laughing yet? Here are some facts on toll roads.
The Gaston Gazette editorial on Monday proposes this: "Toll roads will bring a reality into focus in North Carolina." Reality does not concur with that conclusion. Facts do not bear out the idealistic theories on toll roads. It sounds so nice, the idea that the users pay their way, that paying tolls would be a capitalistic approach to public roads. But the history of toll roads do not bear this out. Floating the idea that the tolls will go away once the financing for the road is paid for is a ruse that investors love to use to promote their investments, but it never happens. And if anyone hasn't noticed, combining "public use" money with private investments, such as the "White Water Park" adventure, is not exactly working out to be a viable method or best use of public money. Instead it creates unreal expectations and wastes taxpayer money that might be better used by private citizens to create more useful businesses.
Just down I-85 from here, in Greenville, SC, a very similar toll road was foisted onto the public as a winning way to get a loop around Greenville, linking I-85 with 395. This toll loop was sold to the public by way of a non-profit public-private partnership, using tax free bonds to fund construction. The toll road opened in 2001. Today the public-private non-profit association is bankrupt and has defaulted on its financing obligations. The bonds were to be paid over thirty-five years with the proceeds from toll collections. The projected growth never materialized and the majority of the revenue collected went to consulting fees, marketing, paying toll employees, and legal fees. Source Consequently, this toll road was built on previously privately owned property, took millions of dollars in both public and private investment, used tolls collected for use other than the road itself, produced no noticeable growth, and generally wasted time, energy, tax dollars, and materials.
In Georgia, the Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority is now proposing to keep the tolls on the Georgia 400 toll road, in spite of the bond indebtedness being paid off in 2011. The voters and taxpayers were told that the toll booths would be taken down after the debt was paid. "I see it like the mortgage company forcing me to keep paying monthly on my house even after said mortgage is paid in full," states Georgia resident, Steve Williams. His blog here
In Tennessee we have this: "From the 9-25-07 Joint Transportation Committee, Senator Jack Johnson asks if the Tolls on Toll Roads would go away after the toll road debt is paid off. Ed Cole, with TDOT, says no, the money will continue to go into a toll fund so it can be used on other projects." Taxing Tennessee
In Washington DC, the Dulles Toll Road rates are to be increased by 2012, not to pay for the road, but to pay for a new metro-rail line to Dulles International Airport. This metro-line is to be paid for, not only with the tolls but with your Federal tax dollars. Not only users of the road pay, but now we all pay. Instead of stopping the tolls, the politicians have figured out how to increase them and use the money for yet another project. Source: Washington Post
The appetite for revenues in the political sector is insatiable. They will say anything to convince voters that their grand schemes of taxing the public are going to bring prosperity and untold wealth. Once established, tolls rarely ever go away. I could go on ad infinitum with real anecdotal evidence that the proponents of the Garden Parkway are lying about the intentions of a toll road enterprise linking us to Charlotte. But if you believe the idea that the tolls will go away once the debt for the road is paid, I've got a toll road to nirvana I'd like to sell you. If you think the projections are more real than fiction, maybe I could hook you up with an investor named Madoff. Also, if you like the idea of the government tracking you with transponders in your car, as the Gazette touts as another great idea, I can get you a few copies of 1984 or Animal Farm you might want to read.
How long is it going to take for the public to catch onto the lies and schemes of some power grabbing politicians? Just a rhetorical question that I wish could be answered in my lifetime.