Recently we gave a fat, juicy, mustachioed RAZZBERRY to mustachioed reporter John Stossel of ABC’s 20/20 for a lopsided report he did awhile back on public-private partnerships.
In case you missed the RAZZY and/or the report, here’s a recap: “Hi, this is John Stossel. Public-private partnerships are a good thing and all other opinion on the subject is shortsighted and wrong, including yours.”
So if we already gave Stossel a good RAZZ-ing for his (un)evenhanded journalism, why am I bringing it up again? Because I have more ammo. And it’s just fun.
The new ammunition came the other day in the form of an earnings report from Macquarie. You probably know Macquarie best as the owner of the Indiana Toll Road. The company also owns the Chicago Skyway, the Dulles Greenway in Virginia, the South Bay Expressway in San Diego, and is currently in negotiations to buy your driveway and the path leading from grandma’s house to the garden out back.
Macquarie may want to hold off on those last two, because the news from the earnings report wasn’t good. Indiana, Dulles and South Bay were singled out as three of the company’s worst performers, with Indiana easily topping the list. Those roads saw less traffic than a one-way, dead-end street. Paved with nails.
Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but the point is, traffic was down significantly. And why? Macquarie pointed to the bad economy and harsh winter weather, but there was another culprit lurking behind the scenes. Toll increases went into effect on all three of those roads in January. Coincidence? Not likely.
One report I saw quoted an Australian analyst as saying that Indiana and San Diego were basically worthless for Macquarie. So what does a company do with an asset that is worthless when it’s locked into a 75-year contract with, say, Indiana? I imagine we might find out before this year is over.
Which brings me back to Stossel. He strutted around during his report, talking as though public-private partnerships held all the answers to our transportation funding problems. Stossel said one of the biggest benefits of public-private partnerships is that the roads are maintained at virtually no cost to the taxpayer. Um, John, who do you think is paying the tolls on those roads?
Well, according to the Macquarie report, nobody is, so maybe he was right on that one after all.