Privatization Takes Its Toll

by John Prendergast, Managing Editor; Civil Engineering Magazine, ASCE World Headquarters, 345 East 47th Street, New York City, NY.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1993, Vol. 63, Issue 1, Pg. 69-71

Document Type: Feature article


When Congress passed and President Bush signed into law the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, the bill's provisions designed to encourage private-sector involvement in toll projects were lauded as a revolutionary step. But under a program set up two years earlier, Caltrans had already contracted with private consortia to build and operate four privately financed toll road projects worth about $3 billion, whose fate could greatly influence future efforts. What's happened since passage of the enabling legislation—California Assembly Bill 680—is a lesson in the formidable obstacles facing public/private partnerships in the U.S. In addition to the environmental protests that come with any large-scale project, opponents have charged that the projects are far bigger than intended and too profitable for developers, and that Caltrans illegally contracted out design services, abdicated its public oversight responsibilities and misled legislators on how the projects would be funded.

Subject Headings: Privatization | Tolls

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