The campaign to turn America's highways back to private ownership - with electronic tollbooths that will silently tap your bank account as you drive - is accelerating here in the Northeast.
"New York and Connecticut are rolling along with bills and hearings," Frank Rapoport, partner at McKenna Long & Aldridge, one of the law firms pushing hardest for "public-private partnership" sales of state assets to private interests, tells me. "In Pennsylvania, look for a House (of Representatives) bill to hit the Capitol floor on June 6 and move on to passage."
Previous proposals, including House bills sponsored by the current Transportation Committee head, Rep. Richard Geist, R-Altoona, have failed three times. "The bill was reported out of our committee 21-3 March 3" but has since been hung up over prevailing-wage issues, House legislative analyst Greg Grasa told me. Federal contracting rules typically require union-scale wages; but Republicans want them out in case federal law changes, while Democrats want them in for the same reason. Still, Grasa calls the working bill "a solid, flexible broad-based piece of legislation" that's already been vetted by state transportation officials. "We're very optimistic."
What about New Jersey, where ex-Gov. Jon Corzine's efforts to sell the Turnpike and the Atlantic City Expressway came to grief a few years back?