The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill would incentivize privatization

The price tag on the massive toll-lane project proposed by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan should scare the hell out of you—even if you don’t live in Maryland.

That’s because the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—which is expected to be passed soon by Congress—would incentivize state and local governments to sign similar so-called “public-private partnerships.”

Get a load of these numbers.

$6 billion—The state’s estimated total cost of the project, which would make it the largest public-private partnership ever signed in the U.S.

$1.1 billion—The additional cost of utility relocations on top of the $6 billion total, as estimated by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.

$135 million—The money already committed to the engineering consultant assisting the state with finalizing the initial plan. The state treasurer described this amount as the “very first baby step” in a years-long process—who knows how high the consultant’s fees will end up?

$50—The estimated toll for a rush hour 12-mile trip from the George Washington Parkway in Virginia to I-370 in Maryland’s Shady Grove. The corporation in line to win the contract—the Australian toll-road giant, Transurban—has said it will likely need to be even higher.

A portion of all that money will go to profit for Transurban—which just profited $2.42 billion between June 2020 and June 2021—rather than being invested in ways to improve the lives of Marylanders.

Like cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. Or building on innovative public safety programs where I live in Baltimore. Or speeding up Purple Line transit construction, which—ironically—is itself a public-private partnership that is draining money from the state’s coffers.

Concerned about your state, town, or school district falling for the public-private partnership trap? Here, get up to speed and be on the lookout:

 

Photo by Third Way Think Tank.