by Damon Boughamer
Public Radio Capitol News, serving Pennsylvania
Harrisburg, Penna. (PRCN, 2 March 2006) -- Pennsylvania could soon have roads that are built entirely with private dollars – proposed by private companies that are banking on potential profit.
State lawmakers who support the concept call it a natural next step in the evolution of surface transportation.
Virginia’s about to try it. Washington’s Capital Beltway is really crowded, especially on the Virginia side, but the state said it did not have the billions of dollars it would take to upgrade the highway.
Enter private enterprise, which has said it will construct new lanes by itself in exchange for the right to collect its own tolls.
This could work in the state’s most congested corridors – along the Schuylkill in Philadelphia, for example, or southbound, westbound or eastbound out of downtown Pittsburgh.
House Transportation Committee Minority Chair Keith McCall – a Lehigh Valley Democrat – said that while this would be new to the States, it’s not a totally original idea.
“The Europeans have completely private roads," McCall said. "It really never, I think, gained footing here.”
McCall and Republican Rick Geist plan to develop legislation together to authorize such projects.