March 28th, 2012

Why would anyone buy naming rights to a highway?

By Daniel Nasaw

By 2013, drivers in the US state of Virginia, America’s 12th most populous state, could be treated to traffic reports warning of lengthy delays on the Pepsi highway or the Coca-Cola bridge.

In an effort to raise money for its cash-strapped road network, the state has passed a law authorising it to sell to private companies the rights to name its roads, highways and bridges.

But the scheme amounts essentially to auctioning public spaces to the highest bidder, says Elizabeth Ben-Ishai of Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group.

“It’s evidence of a decline in our values when we start naming public spaces and public entities after corporations instead of national heroes or historical figures,” she says.

“The state acting as a marketer, working on behalf of these corporate interests, is a distasteful trend. It undermines the value of public space.”

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