Autobahn Agency

Germany to Semi-Privatize Highway Grid

Building of the Lahntalbrücke in the German state of Hessen. In the future, Germany wants to pay for all infrastructure projects with money from tolls and private investors.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    If Germany sets up a toll-financed entity to maintain and build highways, it could lead to more construction and user costs.

  • Facts


    • A 2009 law has limited federal and state spending to economic growth, which has limited infrastructure projects.
    • Germany spends €3 billion a year on highway repairs, a road network which was first planned and built during the 1930s by Adolf Hitler.
    • Germany’s highway system is the world’s last modern highway network without speed limits on many of its stretches.
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Germany is planning to set up a public-private agency to manage its famous autobahn highway system, which could potentially levy and collect the nation’s first road tolls on auto drivers, Handelsblatt has learned.

The new agency — which would replace the system of directly funding highway construction from the federal budget — aims to open up construction and maintenance to private investors, according to report that will be presented in Berlin on Tuesday.

The new plan is laid out in a report by an expert commission set up by the German vice chancellor and economics minister, Sigmar Gabriel. The commission proposes a corporation to be dedicated to financing infrastructure projects throughout Germany.

The plan would shift part of the costs and debt necessary for the 12,917-kilometer (8,026-mile) autobahn system from federal coffers to a quasi-public agency, giving investors, especially the nation’s insurers, a new source of low-risk, high-return investment.

The new public-private highway company will use revenue from tolls planned on motorists and proceeds from private investors.

Private investors, such as insurance companies, would be given the chance to buy into road and bridge projects through bonds, shares or credit lending.

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