Source: By CRAIG KARMIN, Wall Street Journal (subscription req.), August 26, 2008
Hobbled by the credit crisis, Wall Street firms and many state governments are hoping that a pockmarked strip of Pennsylvania highway could provide a road out. Next month, the Pennsylvania legislature is expected to vote on a $12.8 billion deal struck between the governor and a group of private investors to lease America’s oldest major toll road, the 537-mile Pennsylvania Turnpike. If it passes, the deal would be by far the largest ever of its kind in the U.S. Under these arrangements, known as public-private partnerships, investors lease or buy roads, bridges or other infrastructure, operate them independently and collect tolls.
A green light in Pennsylvania could bolster the political will of officials in other states trying to hash out similar deals. That in turn could jump-start projects in waiting, from Florida’s Alligator Alley to Chicago’s Midway Airport. Last month, New York Gov. David Paterson urged legislators to consider leasing some of his state’s roads, bridges and tunnels to help shrink a budget deficit projected at $26.2 billion by 2011.