In 2008, the city of Chicago sold the rights to its parking meters to Morgan Stanley for more than $1 billion. Over the next four years, the city’s parking rates skyrocketed by 800 percent.
In 2011, Virginia entered a 58-year contract with a private company to manage the tolls of the city of Norfolk’s midtown tunnel. The private operator jacked up tolls with a pricing scheme that gave low-income drivers bills as high as $18,000.
These stories are highlighted in a new report from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), set to be released later on Wednesday, intended to warn of the dangers of President Donald Trump’s proposed infrastructure plan.
Like the Senate Democratic caucus, Sanders has embraced the idea of a big infrastructure spending bill to repair the nation’s roads and bridges. But, also like Senate Democrats, Sanders opposes the "public-private partnerships" Trump has proposed to accomplish this objective.
"Trump wants to hand over more critical public infrastructure to private investors who will squeeze profits from the American people by putting up new tolls and exorbitant user fees," Sanders's report says. "That would be unacceptable."
As Brad Plumer explained for Vox about Trump’s initial proposal from the campaign trail:
What Trump has right now is an idiosyncratic proposal for Congress to offer some $137 billion in tax breaks to private investors who want to finance toll roads, toll bridges, or other projects that generate their own revenue streams. But this private financing scheme, experts across the political spectrum say, wouldn’t address many of America’s most pressing infrastructure needs — like repairing existing roads or replacing leaky water mains in poorer communities like Flint. It’s a narrow, inadequate policy.
For instance: "This is unlikely to do much for road and bridge maintenance," notes Harvard economist Edward Glaeser. "And [economists] have long believed that the highest returns are for fixing existing infrastructure."
Trump announced on Monday that it was "infrastructure week," and is set to deliver an infrastructure speech on Wednesday afternoon in Cincinnati. On Thursday, he will meet with mayors and governors at the White House to discuss an infrastructure overhaul.
But his infrastructure plan may not go anywhere. On Capitol Hill, there are no signs that his ambitions for an infrastructure package will fare any better than his tax reform push or his health care plans. Trump started "infrastructure week" without so much as a bill, or any reported reassurance that Congress has the appetite or means to take up a major infrastructure overhaul amid its busy schedule.
Sanders’s latest report is an attempt to nip Trump’s infrastructure package in the bud. You can read it in full here.