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Building bloc: Florida exploring unique road plan

Building bloc: Florida exploring unique road plan

Published: March 17, 2009



Oklahoma figures to get about $465 million in federal stimulus money to use for highway projects. It could use a lot more — the Department of Transportation identified 180 projects, with a price tag topping $1 billion.

Many states have begun looking at different means — namely, the private sector — to help deal with transportation issues. A good many of those efforts have been scotched, but states continue to seek solutions.

An interesting one is occurring in Florida, where a Spanish-led group will design, build, operate and maintain three new toll lanes near Fort Lauderdale. The cost: $1.8 billion over 35 years. But the model is new to the United States — the state isn’t affected by cost overruns during construction, the consortium will operate and maintain the road but the state will set toll rates and keep the revenue, and the consortium will be paid back over the life of the deal based on performance clauses tied to how well it builds and maintains the road.

"This project is a harbinger of what we may be seeing over the next decade or so, as we don’t have enough money for major construction,” Robert Poole, a transportation expert with the Reason Foundation, told The Wall Street Journal.

There have been efforts in our Legislature to keep the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority from ever getting together with the private sector, so selling this or other ideas could be difficult. But as revenues decline, the need to maintain our highways and turnpikes continues. Exploring new ways to do that only makes sense.

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