The Public-Private Trap

by Patrick McSweeney

Virginia tried funding transportation projects through “public-private partnerships” in the 19th century. Advocates of that approach today might think twice if they knew their history.

There is at least one good reason for requiring the teaching of Virginia history. It might allow Virginians to learn from the painful lessons of the past instead of experiencing the same pain over and over again. More.

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  1. E M Risse Avatar


    Very nice history lesson. Thank You.


  2. I agree, but lets not forget how “public/private partnerships” have been carving up downtown Richmond for over twenty years. Richmond Renaissance has been breeding giant white elephants (6th Street Marketplace, Canal Walk, new Convention Center, VaPAC, new Shockoe ballpark) faster than rabbits and they are literally sitting on downtown, keeping it from being developed properly by small businesses and citizens.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Public private partnerships for roads that will be financed by tolls is just another way of shifting the burden of tax increases for new roads back onto Northern Virginia citizens.

    For years Northern Virginia has been paying taxes to construct roads in other parts of the state. It’s time for some of the money to come back.

    We have plenty of roads, but either the roads or the people are in the wrong places. Since people move more freely than roads it is more likely that people are in the “correct” places and roads are in the wrong places. This is a direct result of unresponsive government.

    When the governor tried to establish a special taxation district to fund Northern Virginia roads the citizens gave a resounding answer. Toll roads are just another version of a special taxing district only smaller and more directed.

    That might be OK if history showed it would work, but even recent history in the case of the Greenway suggests it won’t.

    We can’t even count on government keeping the revenue from special taxation districts within the districts, which was a major flaw in the governors previous plan. We are now seeing plans for road tolls to support transit expansion, wich is another way of violating the inherent fairness of special taxation districts. This is generating considerable anger among toll payers today and may jeopardize future plans of this type.

    Transit advocates are fond of saying that roads don’t pay their own way and if travelers had to pay their own full costs, travel would be greatly reduced. I support that argument, but if it was applied to Metro and VRE, they would go out of business tomorrow.

    Phillip Shucet indicated the essential unfairness of toll roads today in TWP with the following quote:

    “Shucet cautioned drivers to consider a little math before backing tolls in all cases. He said tolls on new highways would be at least $1 in each direction. So even if gas taxes were raised 20 cents a gallon — the amount he said was needed to fund all the state’s transportation needs — a driver who spends $2 a day on tolls would have to use more than 10 gallons of gas a day to save money. That’s a 100-mile commute — in a Hummer.

    If the region is filled with toll roads, Shucet said, “people are going to pay through the nose for transportation.” “

    In addition to the gross overcharging Shucet predicts, toll roads are yet another futile attempt by government to locate that mythical and elusive “additional source of funding”. There is only one source of funding and it is either income or spending which are opposite sides of the same coin. Both of them depend on commerce and commerce depends on roads.

    If you want more money, build more roads. Some things the government should just do, and roads are one of them.

    Any attempt to locate new funding sources violates the basic principles of fairness that are represented by the income or sales taxes, and will be resented by those whom it affects most.

    The fact that real estate taxes are inherently unfair and divorced entirely from ability to pay is one reason our schools are disproportionately funded with predictable results.

    In turn, these results are one primary driver in where people choose to live and they in turn affect the need for roads.

    A single fair, equitable and predictable source of funding would go a long way towards allowing people to live instead of creating artificial traps whether public or private, which they inevitably try to escape.

    Ray Hyde
    Delaplane, VA

  4. Chris Clark Avatar
    Chris Clark

    It’s always hard to say if public/private partnerships are a good thing. I guess greed comes into play.

    Chris Clark’s Web Site

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