U.S. Trails Europe In Developing Private Roads

January 3, 2000

Private companies are already financing and operating toll roads in Europe. But with few exceptions, the movement has yet to get up to speed in the U.S. Industry experts say that is because of government delays here in studying pilot projects and enacting enabling legislation.

  • France's largest private highway operator, Cofiroute, is involved in an experiment in Orange County, Calif., to privately finance road construction by building pay lanes down the median of a freeway -- complete with different rates depending on the time of day and the day of the week.
  • In Europe, private and government-owned highway operators are beginning to sell shares on stock markets.
  • European projects include 10 miles of double-decked tunnel to close a gap in the beltway around Paris, routes across the continent connecting Britain and the Netherlands with the French Riviera and Spain, as well as a beltway around Madrid.
  • Europe's highway entrepreneurs are looking into ways to expand profits by including telecommunications services and even linking up with retailers to establish mini-malls at rest stops.

Together with French auto makers, Cofiroute is developing an information system that will, among other things, know when a motorist turns on windshield wipers or fog lights -- thus prompting instant weather reports to broadcast to other drivers and sell to other commercial stations and weather services.

Source: John Tagliabue, "The Private Roads to Riches," New York Times, January 2, 2000.

 

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