INVESTORS ARE HOPING to seize upon the $1 trillion infrastructure plan proposed by President Donald Trump to transform the nation’s highways, bridges, and tunnels into assets they can monetize by adding tolls and other user fees.
The Trump infrastructure plan, which the administration plans to roll outthis week, is centered on the idea of “asset recycling,” which refers to the process of securing new infrastructure spending by leasing the operations of existing public property to private operators.
The privatization-centered scheme has the nation’s largest toll operators salivating. Transurban, Cintra, and TransCore, three major toll operators, have retained federal lobbyists to influence the upcoming plan.
Transurban, which operates Washington-area Beltway tolls, has been accused of price gouging and predatory debt collection practices. In one lawsuit, a driver claimed that she was charged $3,413.75 for unpaid tolls, fees, and fines after Transurban failed to accept her initial payment for $104.15 for missing tolls on the Beltway toll lanes. Washington Post writer Fredrick Kunkle assailed Transurban for “price gouging” after the company hiked its rates to$30 during a winter snowstorm.
During an investor day presentation last month, Transurban’s Jennifer Aument, in charge of North America operations for the Australian company, hailed the Trump infrastructure plan as an opportunity for toll operators like Transurban to expand.
“The people that Trump has put in his administration, they are people who get our business,” Aument said. Trump, Aument added, had appointed several individuals who “were personally involved in working on Transurban’s projects under the Bush administration,” including the Beltway express lane tolls.