Private roads rarely serve a public purpose in this country. But Tallahassee, Florida, will soon provide an exceptional case: a privately-built toll road that will connect neighborhoods in the northeast of the city with the Tallahassee International Airport. The Tallahassee Democrat has the story (see: "Private toll road intended to save nature, wildlife," by Gerald Ensley).
Landowner Jeff Phipps, who holds 5,300 acres in Tallahassee, aims to run the road through his property, the paper reports, at a cost of $17 million. Funding comes from a $13-million loan provided Florida Department of Transportation State Infrastructure Bank (Phipps has already laid out $3 million of his own funds on permitting and design). The road will belong to Leon County, but Phipps will lease the road back, operate it, and collect tolls from drivers. The project won't break even for decades, however — if it ever does.
Phipps says he has no intention of developing the land the road runs through — in fact, he's trying to donate the property to a conservation trust. Says Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge: "It's a cool project. I give Jeff credit for being ahead of his time. Twenty to 25 years from now, (county government) would've been on his doorstep, saying we want that land to build a road that, like most government projects, would be less aesthetically pleasing. Jeff has jumped through hoops for this. I say more power to him."