Fact-checking the “sale” of the Turnpike to “the Portuguese”

Ben Ober responds to a xenophobic screed against “selling the Turnpike to the Portuguese” – though no one is proposing a sale and no one from Portugal is involved.

The July 25 opinion piece “Don’t sell the Pa. Turnpike to the Portuguese ,” by Clifford A. Rieders, is filled with factual errors, spotty logic and xenophobic rhetoric in a vain attempt to paint the Turnpike lease as a disaster scenario. 
For starters, the author rails against selling the Turnpike to the Portuguese. Gov. Rendell’s proposal is not a sale but rather a legally binding lease. The lead company — a multinational operator with American financiers — is based in Spain. Under the proposed lease, Pennsylvania would receive a $12.8 billion upfront payment, and the bidder would receive 75 years of operating rights.
The author errs again when he writes that a private operator would raise the tolls sky high. The lease agreement prevents Pennsylvania Transportation Partners (PTP) from raising tolls more than inflation or 2.5 percent per year, whichever is greater. Under Act 44, the Turnpike Commission is planning to raise rates by 3 percent per year, with no limit on toll increases at all.
Yet another error emerges when Mr. Rieders suggests that the lease is outsourcing our government to some other country. Leasing the Turnpike is the opposite of outsourcing. Outsourcing is moving American capital and jobs overseas. When a foreign company brings international capital into the U.S., creating new jobs and services in the process, there is a different word to describe the situation: insourcing.

Pennsylvania is at a critical juncture in deciding how to fund its transportation infrastructure. Issues of this magnitude deserve more than factual inaccuracies — they merit honest discussion and engagement with facts. Indeed, Mr. Rieders and others would benefit from a visit to TurnpikeFacts.com before simply regurgitating the talking points of the Turnpike Commission.