Opinion: Maine Voices: Highway privatization law compromises public oversight of Maine roads

Source: Lindsay Newland Bowker, Protland Press Herald, March 25, 2013

Operators of roads like the east-west highway can get public financing without government say over tolls…. In 2010, with little public notice or opportunity for public comment, Maine enacted a highway privatization statute written by and for Maine’s asphalt lobby: Cianbro Corp., Maria Fuentes of the Maine Better Transportation Association and John Melrose, former Department of Transportation commissioner.

The law applies to any transportation infrastructure anywhere in Maine (not just highways) and allows private control for up to 50 years; public guarantees of private debt; up to 50 percent public financing; expedited approvals; use of public roads and air rights over public roads, and, of course, eminent domain.

There are three bills active in the Legislature to “fix” various elements of our hurriedly written, poorly vetted privatization statute, but the action that is appropriate is outright repeal….