While Gov. Ed Rendell waits for a Dec. 22 deadline for private firms to submit “expressions of interest” to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike, public policy wonks are battling it out in commentaries over whether privatization is a good idea or not. In one corner is Nathan Benefield of the conservative Harrisburg-based Commonwealth Foundation who wrote in a Dec. 12 commentary that public-private partnerships are a good idea to manage transportation infrastructure. He pointed to the $1.8 billion lease of the Chicago Skyway and the $3.85 billion lease of the Indiana Toll Road as prime examples. “Done right, public-private partnerships are a viable solution to Pennsylvania’s transportation problems,” Benefield wrote. “Instead of higher taxes and fees, Pennsylvania policymakers should look first to public-private partnerships and free-market alternatives to fill our transportation funding needs.” In the other corner is Jim Dodaro, a member of the Port Authority of Allegheny County who served on the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission from 1984 to 2004. He argued in a commentary Monday against leasing the Turnpike, favoring instead a funding strategy that would make key interstate highways toll roads – “a far better alternative to address current and future transportation needs,” he writes. When he announced the state would accept “expressions of interest” on leasing the Turnpike, Rendell said the state could get between $2 billion and $30 billion. If the state could get a good price for the Turnpike, Rendell said the money would be invested in a trust fund, with the interest paying for needed transportation improvements.
Mr Dodaro should be forwarned, I have been running the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum in preparation.