Indiana lawmaker calls for more debate on road
May 24, 2007
By Maureen Groppe / Indianapolis Star
WASHINGTON - Governments that want to enter into
public-private partnerships on transportation
projects similar to Indiana's leasing of its toll
road should do so with more public debate and
transparency than happened in Indiana, state Rep.
Terri Austin told a congressional panel today.
Austin, a Democrat who chairs the state House Roads
and Transportation Committee, said the legislature
and the public did not have enough time to examine
the complex details of Republican Gov. Mitch
Daniel's Major Moves plan, which involved leasing
the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years in exchange for a
$3.8 billion upfront payment.
"It was essentially a fait accompli," Austin said.
The Democrat also complained that prospective
bidders had more information than state lawmakers
did on the plan's details.
Austin, one of a group of witnesses that also
included Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and
representatives of transportation groups, said
public-private projects shouldn't be rejected out of
hand. But, she said, they deserve far more public
debate than they've received.
Thursday's hearing was the third conducted by the
U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee on public-private partnerships. The head
of the committee recently sent a letter to states
discouraging them from entering into such agreements
and warning that Congress could try to undo those
"that do not fully protect the public interest."
The U.S. Department of Transportation has created
"model legislation" states can use to implement