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New toll road hype in Oklahoma

Posted By Jerome R. Corsi On 05/21/2007 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

Robert Poole, a mechanical engineer who has advised the administrations of George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to privatize U.S. highways,

estimates that more than $25 billion in Public-Private-Partnership, or PPP, highway projects are planned or approved in the United States.

Now, a prominent Oklahoma state representative has invited Poole to promote his PPP toll road ideas, a move evidently designed to counter growing citizen opposition.

Poole lobbies for PPP highways in Oklahoma

Oklahoma House Speaker Republican Lance Cargill, the founder of a group known as The 100 Ideas Initiative, has invited Poole to give a June 13 luncheon speech at

Spirit Bank in Tulsa.

Oklahoma activists opposed to the construction of NAFTA superhighway toll roads have objected that bringing a “heavy hitter” like Poole to Oklahoma signals that state politicians are already lining up with investment bankers in a

PPP plan designed to bring the Texas Department of Transportation’s Trans-Texas Corridor into their state.

Poole’s luncheon speech will be introduced by opening remarks from Cargill.

Beginning February 2007, Cargill has been holding a series of town hall meetings across Oklahoma promoting the development of “100 Ideas of Innovation for Oklahoma’s Second Century.” At the end of 2007, Cargill plans to

publish a book on the 100 Ideas theme. The “100 Ideas” website notes that “the book will serve as an agenda for Speaker Cargill and as a plan for Oklahoma’s second century.”

WND has already reported Republican Oklahoma state Sen. Randy Brogdon has entered a bill (HB1819) that would require the

Oklahoma Department of Transportation to withdraw from North America’s Super-Corridor Coalition, Inc. and to block any moves to build a NAFTA superhighway like the Trans-Texas Corridor in Oklahoma.

NASCO is a Dallas-based trade association that promotes Interstate Highways 35, 29 and 94 as an international trade corridor.

NASCO adamantly objects to any suggestion that the trade organization supports the construction of any new NAFTA superhighway, although it has consistently refused to accept challenges to oppose the Trans-Texas Corridor

plans of their TxDOT member. According to the NASCO website, the state of Oklahoma is also a member of the trade group.


Federal Highway Administration Pushes PPP

WND has reported that the Federal Highway Administration, or FHWA, is promoting public-private partnerships to bring private capital to

expanding superhighway projects, consistent with extending Trans-Texas Corridor-35 north into Oklahoma.

A FHWA website dedicated to PPP projects presents case studies for state highway administrators to study, as well as sample “Comprehensive Development Agreements”

that are required to implement PPP highway development contracts.

PPP projects in the United States can be dated back to Executive Order No. 12803, which President George H. W. Bush signed April 30, 1992. This mandate cleared federal barriers for cities and states to lease public works

infrastructure to private investors.

PPP Controversies Develop Overseas

Poole argues that as the U.S. highway market matures, we are certain to see “the emergence of domestic toll road companies.” He notes that in addition to foreign capital consortia, “financial institutions have been creating multi-billion-dollar infrastructure investment funds, so these deals will soon be tapping U.S. capital in a major way.”

In some international markets, evidence is mounting to discredit PPP methodologies as a “debt free” way governments fund superhighway toll

roads.

In New South Wales, Australia, the government responded to public protests over the high tolls imposed by the PPP-funded Cross-City Tunnel, forcing the NSW government to reopen routes that had been closed in order to

guarantee the profits of the private operator.

Another Australia case involves the Scoresby Freeway in Victoria, Australia, where the cost of buying the PPP lease operator out of their

high toll rates was estimated at some $7 billion, even though the costs of constructing the freeway was estimated at $2.5 billion. The differences were attributed to “compensating private investors for bearing risk that properly belongs

with the public.”

Poole Background

Typically planned to be operated as toll ways, PPP deals involve Wall Street investment bankers earning huge fees to attract foreign capital for new highways or to lease existing highways, with the plan to operate these PPP

highways as toll roads under long-term leases.

As WND has previously reported, the Trans-Texas Corridor involves a new four-football-fields-wide car-truck-train-pipeline corridor

planned to be built parallel to Interstate 35 from Laredo, Texas, to the Texas border with Oklahoma.

Trans-Texas Corridor-35 is being financed by Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A., http://www.cintra.es/ a Spanish investment consortium.

WND has also reported that Cintra’s bid to finance and operate the new TTC-35 NAFTA superhighway has been advised by the Houston

law firm Bracewell & Giuliani, the law firm of Republican Party presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani.

In 1978, Poole founded the libertarian Reason Foundation. The Reason Foundation website claims that Poole coined the term “privatization” in his 1980 book “Cutting Back City

Hall.”

A critical article in the leftist journal Mother Jones noted that Poole’s estimate of $25 billion in PPP highway projects are planned or approved

in the U.S. was “remarkable,” especially given that as of 1991 the total cost of the interstate highway system was estimated at $128.9 billion.



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