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OMG Indiana leases toll road to foreign company!!!

Old 04-12-06, 08:31 PM
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OMG Indiana leases toll road to foreign company!!!

Oh. my. god.

Think about the terrorists. How will we know the roads will be safe??

State signs toll road lease deal as lawsuits filed

By MIKE SMITH
AP Political Writer
Published April 12, 2006, 4:40 PM CDT


INDIANAPOLIS -- The state signed a contract Wednesday that paves the way for the largest highway-privatization deal in the nation, but the road ahead could be complicated by legal challenges to a law authorizing the $3.8 billion lease of the Indiana Toll Road.

State Budget Director Chuck Schalliol executed the contract with a private, foreign consortium about 90 minutes before a group filed a lawsuit in St. Joseph County seeking to block the agreement from being signed and challenging its state constitutionality. A separate lawsuit was filed in Brown County.

The law that authorized the 75-year lease gave opponents a 15-day window that ended on Wednesday to challenge the deal, and state officials had indicated earlier that they planned to sign the contract on Friday.

But Schalliol said Friday was only a signing deadline, and likened Wednesday's move to filing taxes early.

"We had the documents ready, so we went ahead and did it," he said. "There was no reason to wait."

The state hopes to transfer the highway to the private consortium by June 30.

Steve Bonney, a farmer and activist from West Lafayette, said a lawsuit filed in St. Joseph Superior Court in South Bend seeks to prohibit the state from going through with the lease.

He said he did not know what Wednesday's signing means to the lawsuit, but said the timing likely was designed "to upstage us."

"The attorneys will have to battle that out," said Bonney, one of the lawsuit's plaintiffs and a spokesman for the group.

The lawsuit claims that the Indiana Constitution requires that revenue from the sale of any public works, and its annual income, be used to pay off state debt. The Brown County suit makes the same claim, said its plaintiff, Bill Stant of Nashville.

The administration of Gov. Mitch Daniels says the toll arrangement isn't a sale -- it's a lease.

Under that contract, Cintra-Macquarie -- a Spanish-Australian consortium -- would pay $3.8 billion up front to the state and then operate and maintain the 157-mile road across northern Indiana, collecting its toll revenue until 2081.

Daniels says the $3.8 billion will help pay for hundreds of highway and other transportation projects and create tens of thousands of jobs. The law authorizing the lease also allows Daniels to make a portion of the planned extension of Interstate 69 through southern Indiana a tollway.

The highway plan gained final passage in the Republican-controlled General Assembly by the bare minimum of votes needed in the House.

All but two Democratic legislators opposed it, with others saying the state should not turn over a major asset to a private entity that would reap billions of dollars through toll revenue and rate increases.

Chicago last year was the first U.S. government entity to lease an existing toll road to private investors, turning over the 7.8-mile Chicago Skyway to the same Spanish-Australian consortium for 99 years in exchange for $1.83 billion.

On the Indiana Toll Road, tolls vary by size of vehicle and distance traveled. A typical car running the entire length now would pay $4.65.

Daniels plans to soon raise toll rates on his own, but the law freezes them for passenger vehicles until electronic tolling is in place. It then sets a 40 percent discount for passengers vehicles paying electronically through 2016.

The consortium, however, can begin raising tolls annually beginning in 2010 by 2 percent or the rate of inflation or increase in gross domestic product.

The plaintiffs in the St. Joseph County suit include Bonney, six other individuals and the consumer watchdog group Citizens Action Coalition. It seeks to block the lease and prohibit the companies from taking possession of the tollway.

John Gibson of Indianapolis, one of the plaintiffs, said the $3.8 billion sounded attractive but he and many citizens believe the deal is a "Trojan horse" that would result in lower wages for toll workers by a private operator and higher toll rates.

"And if there is a legitimate profit to be made in this, why don't we take those profits and use them in Indiana where we really need them badly?" he said.

The lawsuit said the law and lease also violate the state constitution because it would exempt the companies from paying property taxes.

Bonney said the group needed to raise $40,000 to start the lawsuit but was able to collect $65,000, with half the money coming from independent truckers. The group needs to raise at least $200,000 to proceed, but he said he was amazed how quickly the money had come in so far.

Bonney acknowledged that one reason he opposed the deal was that some of the lease money would be used to build the I-69 extension, and the highway would run through farmland he had purchased in southern Indiana. Stant, a Green Party candidate for secretary of state, said the primary motivation behind his lawsuit was his opposition to a new-terrain route of an extended I-69.

But Bonney and some other plaintiffs in the St. Joseph County lawsuit said the I-69 project was not their main objection.

"This is not about politics -- it's about good public policy and constitutional law," said Dave Menzer, a member of the Citizens Action Coalition.

The group also said many truckers oppose it for fear it will lead to an onslaught of privatized tollways and higher rates nationwide.

Daniels' spokeswoman Jane Jankowski said the lawsuit was not about constitutional principle, but trying to "block Indiana from putting thousands of Hoosiers to work to build the roads and bridges we need. The claim is without merit."

"We'll do all we can to make sure there is no delay in Major Moves," she said.

------

Associated Press Writer Tom Coyne in South Bend, Ind., contributed to this report.
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Old 04-12-06, 08:37 PM
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pot hole attack ..

Look out !!!!!
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Old 04-12-06, 08:51 PM
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Haven't seen many Spanish or Ozzie folk blowing themselves up, but hey, what do I know. Maybe we should be invading Spain and Australia.

P.S. George Bush, I'm kidding. Please don't invade these countries.
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Old 04-12-06, 09:06 PM
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While I wouldn't have a problem with this, it looks like the state is trying to take the quick easy buck, which means that in a few years the state will once again complain about a lack of funds, but also be without one of their revenue sources.

Toll roads are stupid anyway, imo. Don't know how people ever let them start.
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Old 04-12-06, 10:03 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
Toll roads are stupid anyway, imo. Don't know how people ever let them start.
Well, the toll roads around here are due 100% to incompetent leadership at the local and county level.
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Old 04-12-06, 10:49 PM
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kvrdave,

This is what Oregon has been doing to taxpayers. Making it literally FREE to conduct business within the state for several years.
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Old 04-12-06, 11:06 PM
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Here in NJ the government is looking into doing the same thing with it's toll roads. They are really running out of ways here to screw us. Selling off this asset will be one of the last things they have left.
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Old 04-12-06, 11:14 PM
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If you drive from Miami to Orlando for DisneyWorld, you can take the turnpike, which is a toll road I think. It's a four hour drive with just one (I think) rest stop in the middle. I thought it was pretty cool, but one day there was an accident on the turnpike which shut it down and there was literally traffic hell everywhere in Miami because I-95 was so jammed. Then the next day, there was another major traffic jam because the President was visiting and they had closed off the whole interstate for him.

I think toll roads have their advantages and disadvantages.
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Old 04-12-06, 11:24 PM
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Originally Posted by DVD Polizei
Haven't seen many Spanish or Ozzie folk blowing themselves up, but hey, what do I know. Maybe we should be invading Spain and Australia.

Well, Spain do have the Basque Seperatists. As for invading - the USA kicked Spain's ass before in war, and Australians already use dollars.
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Old 04-12-06, 11:49 PM
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When did Spain attack US?
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Old 04-13-06, 06:45 AM
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While I have no security concerns here, it's very strange to me that a toll road would be leased to a foreign company. What the heck is going on in this country? We're falling apart from the inside out! We should be owning their toll roads, not the other way around. This is America dag nabbit! Who are the buncha pansie hippy commies that came up with this idea?!
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Old 04-13-06, 06:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Myster X
When did Spain attack US?
When did the UAE?
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Old 04-13-06, 07:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Myster X
When did Spain attack US?
You've forgotten the Spanish-American War, 1898?

We basically recognized Cuba as independent, asserted the Monroe Doctrine as Spain tried to retain their colony, and fought a war that stripped Spain of all its colonies.
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Old 04-13-06, 07:48 AM
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they should get rid of tolls to begin with
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Old 04-13-06, 08:22 AM
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Good thing they didn't lease them to a British company!
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Old 04-13-06, 08:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Myster X
When did Spain attack US?

your telephone taxes are still paying for that war
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Old 04-13-06, 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Thor Simpson
We should be owning their toll roads, not the other way around. This is America dag nabbit!
Well, I feel that there shouldn't be a single foot of toll road in the entire country, but certainly if we're going to have to put up with them, they should be taken care of by our own government.
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Old 04-14-06, 03:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Myster X
When did Spain attack US?
REMEMBER THE MAINE, dammit!
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