Sunday, March 12, 2006

More Transportation: Adding Value Through Public-Private Partnerships

In light of “Sunshine Week,” I was going to post on the need for greater accountability and transparency in the budget process in Richmond, however in light of the on-going transportation discussions, I opted for this article on the value of public-private partnerships for funding transportation and infrastructure improvements as a continuation of the discussion below.

Today’s RTD has an article by Neal Peirce, “Partnerships Offer Opportunity to Meet Infrastructure Needs.” (UPDATE: Link added.)

In the article, Peirce cites Mark Pisano, veteran executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments, as he discusses how the needed infrastructure improvements in states across the country can be funded.
“A glance back through U.S. history, notes Pisano, shows that the nation grew across the continent—from building canals and railroads to constructing subways and metro-area urban rail lines—with relatively modest upfront government spending. Instead, private firms paid most of the cost, then collected revenue based on their investment.

“The direct government spending that began in the New Deal, and reached its apogee in the interstate highway system with Washington paying 90 percent of the cost, can be seen as an aberration. Now, neither public opinion nor the weight of massive obligations that federal and state governments bear these days is likely to permit an all-government funding approach.”

Concluding the argument that in order to effectively fund transportation for the future, we must rely on public-private partnerships:
“ “The best disciplining isn’t ‘smart growth,'" says Pisano. “It’s having the market be a part of the review of investment activities—another lens on what we build.”

“It sounds like a good deal, as long as the new partnerships with business are negotiated professionally with an eye to long-term sustainability… Add in transparent terms, clear performance standards, and protection of the public against unfair charges, and the tapping of pools of private investment capital could prove one of the best deals of the century.”


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