US High Speed Rail Association

DC: Public Private Partnerships – The House Ready To Move on Projects Where the Private Sector is Participating

Representatives from the U.S. High Speed Rail Association (USHSR) attended a panel hearing yesterday of the newly-created special panel on public-private partnerships. 

The panel was formed by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The hearing, titled “Overview of Public Private Partnerships for Highways and Transit Projects,” was led by Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Bill Shuster and by the PPP panel chair Congressman John Duncan.

Testimony was provided by Joseph Kile of Microeconomic Studies, James Bass of TxDOT, Phillip Washington of Denver’s Regional Transit District (RTD) and Richard Fierce of Flour on behalf of Associated General Contractors of America.

“The general sentiment of the panel is that the house is ready to move projects forward if they have private sector participation,” said Joe Shelhorse, USHSR vice president. “Additionally, existing programs such as TIFIA can support PPP projects. Already 41 loans totaling over $15 billion in credit assistance have been issued to leverage over $59 billion in project funding."

Given concerns about federal deficits and limited resources, panel members discussed several strategies for utilizing PPPs and one case study:  

  • Encourage efficiency and early shaping of projects by all involved.
  • Encourage partnering rather than confrontation.
  • Pursue Design/Build/Maintain models to encourage a constant state of design throughout the construction process to ensure projects operate successfully over their contracted life cycle.
  • Look to RTD’s unheard success with their Denver Union Station project, which took concept-to-contract in 3 years, finishing the project ahead of schedule. The results amplified the success of TOD development around the station.

PPP’s are receiving a warm embrace with members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The members observe that when the private sector is involved early in the finance, design and construction, projects are successful, creating confidence in Congress to fund and make loans to such projects.