via email from the Strickland folks:
Columbus, Ohio ?Following news last week that millionaire and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell is taking free rides on the same Ohio Turnpike he wants to privatize, the Associated Press reported over the weekend that such lease efforts usually involve selling off roadways to foreign companies who increase tolls.
?Expert analysis of other toll-road privatization schemes confirm what we?ve feared all along?leasing off our Turnpike will increase tolls, plain and simple,? said lieutenant governor candidate Lee Fisher. ?Selling off one of our state?s most valuable assets that was built by Ohioans and has been run by Ohioans to a foreign company and tying our hands for the next 99 years is incredibly short-sighted. It?s just one more of Mr. Blackwell?s quick-fix, short-sighted political gimmicks.?
The AP reported that after Illinois sold a 99-year lease to the Chicago Skyway, the foreign operators raised tolls 50 cents to $2.50 and said that by 2017 tolls will reach $5.
In fact, Mr. Blackwell?s friends at the conservative think tank Reason Foundation told the AP that ?private investors can raise more money than politicians to build new roads because these kind of owners are willing to raise tolls.?
Orange County provides a disturbing example of such misguided privatization schemes. Seven years after a partly French-owned toll-road was built and operated for $130 million, the county faced massive traffic congestion. But its hands were tied because of the lease, which included a provision forbidding the county from building other roads. According to the AP, Orange County was forced to buy back the lease for $207.5 million and a massive loss.
According to news sources across Ohio, when the Ohio Turnpike raised tolls recently, truckers left the Turnpike in droves taking state highways and local roads instead. That led to safety and traffic concerns in local communities, and the Commission eventually rolled back the toll increases.