Spain’s idle toll roads lead to bankruptcy

Spain’s idle toll roads lead to bankruptcy

MADRID - Agence France-Presse
At the Leganes toll booth outside Madrid, the workers scan the horizon for cars. In Spain’s recession, the stream of paying drivers has slowed to a trickle and the toll road is all but bankrupt.

Like the housing bubble, pumped up until it burst in 2008, and its speculation-funded phantom airports, the folly of Spain’s road-building boom too is now being laid bare in vast stretches of tarmac.

“Right now we can’t meet our debt repayments. We are in the hands of the judge,” said Jose Antonio Lopez Casas, director of Accesos de Madrid, the company that manages two major highways around the capital.

The two highways, Radial 3 and Radial 5, opened in 2004 at the height of Spain’s construction boom. Now the company owes 660 million euros ($850 million) to the bank, 340 million to the builders and 400 million to residents evicted to build it.

Since the Madrid-Toledo highway entered bankruptcy proceedings in May, the trend has spread, with five other major routes following.

“It’s no surprise,” says Paco Segura, a transport specialist at the environmental campaign group Ecologists in Action.

“In Spain, just as there was a real estate bubble, there was also a bubble in infrastructure, and one of the areas that got most developed was the motorways,” he added.