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  1. #1
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    an interesting take on Mitt and toll roads

    LYON, France -- Driving through the French countryside on the well kept-motorways here, I keep thinking of Mitt Romney.

    It's not because of the narrative spun this week at the GOP convention, about how he was in a car crash while a young missionary in France. Although some of the hairpin turns we've taken in our little red Renault from Auto Europe make such an accident quite understandable, the convention in Tampa seems a world away, and I'm here to focus on research for my forthcoming book on Le Corbusier.

    What makes me think of Mitt Romney, and by extension his right hand man, Eric Fernstrohm, is tolls.

    by Anthony Flint

    The major motorways are all toll roads in France, largely built, run and maintained by private companies in public-private partnerships. It's all neat and efficient, and it's costly — close to $23 for the equivalent of driving from New York to Boston. There is also of course a superb high-speed rail network, the TGV, or "train grande vitesse," which is a lot of fun to say, and provides a viable alternative to driving.


    The cost of gasoline is also very high here, close to $8 a gallon. Those who chose to drive, say from Lyon to the Cote d'Azur, pay. Most people doing this can afford it. It's a pay-as-you-go system that is France's way of facing up to the reality of the cost of transportation infrastructure, including many Big Dig-like tunnels that sweep under the urban fabric in major cities for many kilometers.

    Romney surely recognizes that tolls and privatization should be part of the conversation about our crumbling infrastructure.

    So it was that while feeding a €20 bill into the automated machine on the A-7, I was taken back to my days as a transportation beat reporter for The Boston Globe. Fernstrohm, whom I competed against for scoops when he was a reporter at the Boston Herald, emailed me with a proposition in his role as communications director for then-Governor Romney. You should come to the governor's press conference today on Beacon Hill, he said, and ask him what he thinks of the proposal to restore the toll plaza on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Newton.

    Motorists using the Mass Pike pay tolls for all exits, and the tolls had been going up, from 50 cents to $1.25 and more. There was one exit that had no tolls, and the turnpike authority suggested this gap should be tidied up.

    I told my editor what I was doing, went to the State House and raised my hand. The governor called on me as he had been instructed to do. What do you think of the proposal to restore this toll plaza, I asked. "Well, that's nuts," Romney replied, as he had been prepared to say. I wrote a short story, and the next day, the Boston Herald ran an editorial about how refreshing it was that a politician could speak off the cuff and from the heart about his passion for lessening the burden on the driving public. I have long since admired Fernstrohm's stagecraft.

    Romney was on anti-toll campaign at the time, and the quasi-public, Robert Moses-style turnpike authority was a fat target. Being against tolls is like being against big government and against taxes. That kind of stance resonates for anyone who grumbles about reaching into their pockets at the toll plaza.

    But deep down, the businessman side of Romney surely recognizes that tolls, and privatization and public-private partnerships, should at least be part of the conversation of how to address America's crumbling infrastructure and dysfunctional federal transportation system, punctuated some months ago with yet another temporary extension of spending authorization. As governor he began work on a 20-year state transportation plan and instituted "fix it first," requiring money to go first to repairing key infrastructure before any new highways were built.

    Nationwide, how should we pay for infrastructure? With an infrastructure bank? With more PPPs? This is to say nothing of increasing the gas tax or putting a price on carbon, as a way of sending signals about the true cost of foreign oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions, and further inducing efficiency in motor vehicles. Or investing in transit or high-speed rail or encouraging transit-oriented development.

    There are any number of opinions about all of this. For starters, I want to be sure the money I pay in tolls goes for operating and maintaining the roadway, and not somewhere else. But an anti-government posture cuts off the discussion before it can start. No self-respecting handler would suggest even bringing up anything like infrastructure, and certainly not that anyone would have to shell out more money for anything. It would be like Walter Mondale, running against Ronald Reagan in 1984, promising that he would raise taxes.

    And so I remain in France, paying for doing the things that Americans have been getting, over decades of happy motoring, essentially for free. Somebody pass the freedom fries.

  2. #2
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    Why should America become like France? I've been to France, and France sucks IMHO. I also don't want my country being overrun by Muslims as France is. France is dying financially. France has the biggest hothead drivers on the planet. If you have too many people in your car, you get pulled over by the cops. I've been to Rheims, Carpentra, Bourdeaux, St. Nazzaire, Lyon, and Paris. Are you saying that since we are half way there, there is no turning back now for us Americans? Is it too late for Americans to cast off socialism? We are so deeply in debt that the U.S. government can't pay for our highways anymore?

    What you suggest is happening all over the place in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area of Texas, and again IMHO it sucks! They are building toll roads everywhere around the DFW Metroplex. The Mexicans are building them, and foreign governments are lending the money, and they will collect the tolls for the next 80 years or however long it is. This is pathetic. Texas has an annual budget of like 150 billion dollars, but they don't have enough to build new interstates? This means an insane amount of money is being wasted on other types of social programs. Here's some shots of the Mexican crews expanding I-820 about 100 yards from where I live. Two days ago, our Mexican friends snapped the fiber optic cable that supples the TV/internet here, but thankfully Charter got it back up and running within 24 hours. But, hey it could happen to an American too.

    http://www.pbase.com/craig_c/i820

    But in all honestly I did enjoy my visits to France--twice by ship and once by plane. I did like the Louve and going to Mountain Market in Paris. I wish I would have bought that painting there I liked, but darn, the French folks I was with talked me out it. They said 200 USD was too much, but I had money coming out my ears at the time. France is only about 5% Christian. That another thing I don't like about it. And I loved the bakeries and my favorite was a strawberry tart--Tart de Frais? Or something like that?

  3. #3
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    This post was just about tolls not Muslims so i don't know where that came from.

    I just spent 3 weeks there and did a lot of driving. Overall, I think they are better drivers than we are, most Europeans are because they HAVE to have better instruction before getting a license. Yes, they drive faster but they are more attentive than we are because they have narrow roads and nothing is straight.

    But even that is not the point. People go on about Socialism there but look at the writers words (I didn't write it), these are private run tolls as are many other things in France. If it works , it works.

  4. #4
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    Wow, just wanted to find out a bit on the Texas budget (I have a real interest in the infrastructure deficit as we are battling the same problem here) and it is surprising to see that conservative Texas is in worse straights than flaky California.
    California's deficit is the largest of any of the 50 U.S. states in absolute dollar terms, but Texas' projected 2012 budget shortfall is equal to 31.5 percent of its 2011 budget, versus 29.3 percent for California, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/...71314420110204

    But getting back to infrastructure, we just had a piece of road in the city built as a public–private partnership that the city will be paying for over the next 30 years (no tolls here). Really it is no difference than the city getting a loan to build the road and paying it back over the years as far as I can see (other than they can get better rates on a loan than the PP3). Well that is unless the city is knee deep in debt, like most, and debt costs rise to reflect the greater risk.

    In either case our country's infrastructure needs a lot of work. I would think you guys are in the same boat. So how are you tackling it, are you getting private companies fund it or do your states and cities borrow tp fix things up? Also are you keeping up or getting behind like us? In my city's case we had some high taxes here and basically had a tax freeze for about 10 years to bring it down. But because of the freeze we have been falling behind in keeping things up. The funny thing is we elected a new mayor last year and the incumbent said he will not raise taxes and his only serious opponent said she would raise them by 2% to start tackling work that needs to be done. Well the incumbent got in and unlike his campaign promise not to raise taxes he raised them by 3%. So much for being honest when you are running for election.

    So is stuff like infrastructure and the state of the country on the election map or is it about if Mitt is a nice guy (and why would you care if the president is a nice guy)? And if it is not on the agenda are your states dealing with the same things as we are here? (mind you part of why things started to crumble is we cut back on spending when our federal government attacked our debt.)
    Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference. —Mark Twain

  5. #5
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    We have a problem here with our roads that drives me nuts. The city paves a road which my suspension loves, and within a couple of months, one utility or another digs up a 3 ft wide strip to fix something, and just patches the road in a cheap fashion with a nice bump. Then a couple of weeks later another utility does the same thing, and on and on. Within 6 months it is like a washboard road.

    I never saw this kind of thing in France or Germany when I was driving. There was some construction but everyone did the work at the same time and then paved it once. I think Gulaini forced the utilities to do it all at once in NY when he was mayor, IIRC. Saved a lot of money.

  6. #6
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    This post was just about tolls not Muslims so i don't know where that camefrom
    Awwwwwh, that's right, you socialist up there in Canada aren't allowed to speak your mind about ragheads or flaming homos. Sorry, I forgot about that. Try not to be offended, but it's all on you whether you are offended or not.

    Toll roads in the U.S. are being financed for foreign governments--maybe even raghead governments. They are being built by Mexicans. And, if Romney (after he becomes president) announces a major government financed roads and bridges restoration project, the folks in Mexico will celebrate as this will be a major jobs program for them. In other words our new roads and bridges will be financed by foreign governments. Either they will lend the money directly to the federal government (think China) or they will lend the money directly to the states and will be paid back by tolls until one day America is a part of history just like ancient Rome now is. After all wasn't Bain Capital (Romney's finance company) all about foreign money coming into America to buy out certain businesses? That was Romney's capital. I doubt he has changed on that point.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by exreo View Post
    Awwwwwh, that's right, you socialist up there in Canada aren't allowed to speak your mind about ragheads or flaming homos. Sorry, I forgot about that. Try not to be offended, but it's all on you whether you are offended or not.

    We are allowed to say whatever we want. we just don't see the need for the vitriol that comes out of some right wing mouths. What you may think of as a major problem, the rest of the western world has already had that discussion and gone on to more important things.

    Toll roads in the U.S. are being financed for foreign governments--maybe even raghead governments. They are being built by Mexicans. And, if Romney (after he becomes president) announces a major government financed roads and bridges restoration project, the folks in Mexico will celebrate as this will be a major jobs program for them. In other words our new roads and bridges will be financed by foreign governments. Either they will lend the money directly to the federal government (think China) or they will lend the money directly to the states and will be paid back by tolls until one day America is a part of history just like ancient Rome now is. After all wasn't Bain Capital (Romney's finance company) all about foreign money coming into America to buy out certain businesses? That was Romney's capital. I doubt he has changed on that point.

    I don't know much about Bain Capital but if it is the same as Carl Icahn, then he doesn't care where the money comes from. He just wants to make a big profit and he couldn't care less what happens to workers and communities around. If you are worried about where the money comes from to build roads, there are two things you can do to keep it home....1] stop selling construction bonds to anyone other than Americans. Pay for it from taxes (where it should come from) and.......2] stop sending all of Americas capital to China through Wallyworld.
    There ya go. America, like all other empires, lives and dies by its own sword and the choices it makes. If you stay stuck in a ideology, others that don't have that ideology will pass you by.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by exreo View Post
    Awwwwwh, that's right, you socialist up there in Canada aren't allowed to speak your mind about ragheads or flaming homos. Sorry, I forgot about that. Try not to be offended, but it's all on you whether you are offended or not.
    I never really could understand this N-word thing. Care to explain?
    Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference. —Mark Twain

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    While I agree it is nice to have freedom of speech, using words like flaming homo and raghead is just plain destructive...talking that way serves no good purpose.

    We are all people on this earth, even though many are treated as dogs...if you hate them that much why don't you just kill them? Save the drama for television.

  10. #10
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    I just don't like painting all the ragheads with the same brush. There is the Middle Eastern garb, then there is the Sikh wrap a bedsheet around your head thing. Then you get the punks here and their dewrag I look so cool just try and shoot me look. Hate to lump them all in the same boat. (Hey would that make them all boat people?)
    Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference. —Mark Twain

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by AStudent View Post
    While I agree it is nice to have freedom of speech, using words like flaming homo and raghead is just plain destructive...talking that way serves no good purpose.

    We are all people on this earth, even though many are treated as dogs...if you hate them that much why don't you just kill them? Save the drama for television.
    AStudent you're sounding more like a liberal now rather than a libertarian. Maybe you're young, and you don't really have all your convictions yet? I know I sure didn't when I was in my 20's.

    I don't hate them, I just want the freedom to be able to call them that. I've been to Saudi, UAE, Bhahrain, and Djibouti--all Muslim countries. I know how Americans are treated there. And, I do think the Muslim religion is stupid! Their god is a guy who is still 6 feet under and was a sex perv. I say "no thanks" to their god. If you look at all the terrorism that has happened all over the world, it was caused my Muslims--not Christians. You sound like one of these wiennie liberal on our college campuses that say, "Oh, don't knock anybody's relgion, because everybody has a right to believe what they want". OK, fair enough, but I do I not have the right to say I think what you believe is stupid?

    As far as homos, I've been hit on them a lot. When I was once your age and a good looking guy like you, I couldn't keep these guys away from me. I still remember my trip up and down Market street in downtown San Francisco in the late 80's and being hit on like crazy. I found myself in a bar in downtown SF, and a fellow I was talking to wanted to know if I wanted to split a veggie pizza. That should have been my first clue right there, but when I realized what was up I bolted out of there. And besides, do you think it's OK for one guy to put his device in another guy's hairy rectum? Do you think that is acceptable behavior? I guess the liberal news media think's it is actually cute, but I think it is gross behavior. I will admit though that I say "homos" just to get a rise out of people, and because I don't approve of their lifestyle. We are told by the powers that be (and in Canada) that we should get used to them. So, I will call them "homos" in protest.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by printer2 View Post
    I just don't like painting all the ragheads with the same brush. There is the Middle Eastern garb, then there is the Sikh wrap a bedsheet around your head thing. Then you get the punks here and their dewrag I look so cool just try and shoot me look. Hate to lump them all in the same boat. (Hey would that make them all boat people?)
    Actually the guys in Bhahrain are pretty easy to get along with--although they did try to rip me off on a cab ride a couple of times. If you are ever there, I highly recommend the Friday night seafood buffett at the Gulf Hotel. Man it is so good, and you would not believe the spread! Heck, they even have Sea Snake among the entrees. It is delicious--no I didn't try the snake.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by printer2 View Post
    I never really could understand this N-word thing. Care to explain?
    Yes, but tell me, is this just an American thing and not a Canadian thing as well?

    Basically, the democrats in our U.S. governmental political system can not win any elections at a national level without the 90% to 95% lock on the black vote. Elections in America (for president) are won by 1% to 3% now days. So, the liberals along with their friends in the news media make sure that perceived racism is alive in well in America--that is, that whites are still prejudiced against blacks. Therefore, there will be no challenge to affirmative action programs at the federal level given that perceived racism against blacks still exist. With affirmative action alive and well at all levels of government in the U.S., blacks will vote for the democrat even if he is Satan incarnate. A hysteria is created in our culture that is reinforced by white guilt over what happened in the 50's and 60's where blacks really were mistreated. For instance, on most boards I can't even spell the word n__gger without the word censor deleting it. If I did spell the word, I can promise you I would be reported and if liberals were in charge of this board, I would be kicked off. No TV commentators or radio commentators are even allowed to say anything negative about a black without being kicked off the air. Remember Don Imus said a certain girl's college basketball team looked like "Nappy headed whores", and Imus lost his job. Imus was correct about what he said though. "Jimmy the Greek" was correct when he said that blacks excel in sports because it's in their genes. They are gifted in the area of athletics. But, to say this also means blacks aren't all that smart--that's in the genes too. White guilt kicked in immediately.

    So, to sum up, the N-word thing is part of American hysteria about anything negative towards blacks under the umbrella of continued white guilt. It is fueled and encouraged by liberals and the American media in order to keep affirmative action the law of the land thereby ensuring the democrats lock on the black vote. I better post this before I run out of room.

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