Monday, July 17, 2006

How much of America will remain American?

I just came across this bit of news over at The Jaded News site today.

*Roads and bridges built with tax-payer dollars are beginning to be sold off to foreign countries – as if selling our major ports to Dubai wasn’t enough. An Austral-Spanish Company has begun buying toll roads in Indiana, bridges in Alabama, and several other states, even though many of these roads are already paid for. But Robert Poole of the conservative think-tank the Reason Foundation (as in complete lack-of) says this isn’t such a bad idea, because private investors can better raise money for roads than can politicians. And in the mean time, should we ever be on opposite sides of a conflict from Australia, these roads and bridges will be unusable.

I had not heard one thing about this tidbit of information. But, upon investigating today, I ran across a piece at CBS News - Foreign Companies Buy U.S. Roads, Bridges. Seems some states are selling off these to make cash. But, where does that leave the American people? When the toll roads are bought, and foreign companies raise the tolls, where does the money go? Surely not into a fund to rebuild the roads for America - but right into the hands of foreigners.

Roads and bridges built by U.S. taxpayers are starting to be sold off, and so far foreign-owned companies are doing the buying.

On a single day in June, an Australian-Spanish partnership paid $3.8 billion to lease the Indiana Toll Road. An Australian company bought a 99-year lease on Virginia's Pocahontas Parkway, and Texas officials decided to let a Spanish-American partnership build and run a toll road from Austin to Seguin for 50 years.
Orange County, Calif., got burned by a toll-road lease for a different reason.

The road, part of state Route 91, was built and run for $130 million by California Private Transportation Company, partly owned by France-based Compagnie Financiere et Industrielle des Autoroutes. The toll road opened in 1995.

Seven years later, Orange County was looking at gridlock. But it could not build more roads because of a provision in the lease. So it bought back the lease _ for $207.5 million.

Former Secretary of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta believes it is time for US investors to get involved in transportations investments. He believes our financial, construction and engineering institutions should get involved.

Not everyone in Texas is buying Governor Rick Perry's vision of attracting private funds for building more roads by 2030. He wants to lease out 3 toll roads to be built by private contractors. But, Harris County voted against selling the 3 toll roads.

Carol Keeton Strayhorn is the independent governatorial candidate in Texas. She opposes Perry's plan. She says "Texas freeways belong to Texans, not foreign companies".

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