Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

« A Royal Pain | Main | Security Theatre in Profile »

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Private Roads

Posted by Richard Anderson on December 4, 2010 | Permalink


Here in South Korea, they have several privatized highways that work quite well. In fact, they are better than their state-owned competitors.

Posted by: The Western Confucian | 2010-12-04 5:18:40 AM

Nothing wrong with private roads. There's a very successful one in Nova Scotia, though I think it might be a private/public partnership.

My son and I did a cross country drive a couple of months ago. We stayed in Canada heading east, and in the US heading west. There was an amazing difference in the quality of roads between different states and provinces. It almost seemed like the have-not areas have the better roads. Go figure.

The one thing I have an issue with is toll booths. Any move toward private roads should have a requirement of finding a more efficient way of collecting tolls. Driving through the eastern US, on the turnpikes, without an electronic pay-pass, is slower than taking the back roads.

Posted by: dp | 2010-12-04 10:37:24 AM

As with most applications of libertarian concepts, what should be a relatively easy sell logically becomes a political nightmare. Shortly after the BC Liberals took back the province from the NDP, they proposed privatizing the Coquihalla highway toll road (essentially remortgaging it, as the amortization was almost complete). The local politicians along with the usual ideologues went ballistic and the BC libs backed down. The tolls and public ownership remain to this day.

For every kilometre of public road in BC there is at least 10 kilometres of privately designed, built, and maintained, private industrial road (on Crown land) paid for by offsets from stumpage and or royalties of provincial resources. Perhaps if the BC Liberals had targeted the proceeds to say, the capital hospital budgets of the local Regional Districts (BC's equivalence to Counties) displacing other granting sources, they could have finessed it.

That, and his also failed attempt at privatizing BC Rail were the last ideologically sound policies Campbell pursued before giving up and continuing to grow Leviathan.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-12-04 11:09:43 AM

John- There's a slight difference between privately owned industrial roads, and privately owned "public" roads. Oilfield, and logging roads have no obligation to provide any sort of safety standards, and you could have a problem collecting any insurance if you happen to have an accident. The owner of a logging road can restrict traffic any time it wants to. They can maintain it according to their own needs, and their own schedule. They can impose whatever conditions, and user rates they see fit. It isn't all that difficult to maintain a road when you have total control of its usage. Keeping a road safe and efficient for the general public is a whole different problem.

Posted by: dp | 2010-12-04 11:27:07 AM

dp Everything you cited regarding private industrial roads in BC is indeed covered by legislation including what you are allowed to charge for road use by other industrial users (you can't charge the public). And in the case of forest roads, you can only keep the public out of active logging areas (for safety reasons) unless you want to assume all liabilities for human caused fires for example. Gating out the public is next to impossible.

My reason for throwing that factoid in was to enlighten those that had no idea of the magnitude of private roads, not to juxtapose a simple extension to public highways.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-12-04 12:46:48 PM

The tolls and public ownership remain to this day.
Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-12-04 11:09:43 AM

When I drove the Coquihalla this summer the toll booths were all closed. Have they re-opened them since July ?. The highway was paid for by taxpayers and Campbell had no right to privatize it with continuing tolls, in effect making us pay for it twice. Understandable that people were angry.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-12-04 12:54:45 PM

Its been a few years since I drove the Coquihalla. And I just confirmed the tolls were demolished exactly two years ago, around a half dozen years after the controversy. My mistake.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-12-04 3:55:37 PM

John: Sounds like BC is a bit different than AB. Over here, many logging roads are closed to anyone without an approved radio monitor. They close gates when the weather is poor. Oilfield roads may allow traffic, but if the company has a surface lease, they can gate it. If a road is already established, and a company improves it, then the general public has right of access. Most arterial roads are under license of occupation, so the public is free to use them, "at their own risk". That last caveat is one that should never be ignored.

Posted by: dp | 2010-12-04 4:18:23 PM

They are different indeed, dp. While those using logging roads in BC are urged to carry radio monitors, they're not required (I don't). Hunters, fishermen, hikers and campers all use forest service roads without restriction. Even when a road is deactivated (bridges dismantled, culverts removed, basically left to Nature), the biggest impediment you'll see is a sign warning you of the fact. You're perfectly free to continue if you want--at your own risk. Ditto for natural disasters that cut off access, like the landslide at Meager Creek. It's the wild west in more ways than one.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-12-04 8:21:10 PM

Road and highways are the most glaring examples of the failure of government to make sound, market responsive decisions. Government has, more often than not, built roads to satisfy a political end, and satisfying political ends always leads to disaster. As a result, inefficient and useless roads are built and are maintained endlessly for no good reason than someone gets a vote. Worse, these roads, at some point, will not be maintained, fall into disrepair, and become hazardous to use. One need only look at all the potholes on the various residential roads where I live to see the failure of government in action. Building endless roads, for no good purpose than to whore for votes is the gravest example of an attack on Liberty. Why should I pay for a road that isn't going to be used and will crumble soon enough?

Posted by: AB Patriot | 2010-12-05 10:36:42 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.