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Public-Private Partnerships for Transportation

This blog is cross-posted from the Advocacy Advance site.

This week Advocacy Advance released its latest resource, “Public-Private Partnerships for Transportation” (PDF). This concise primer answers basic questions about public-private partnerships (PPP, or P3) and how bicycling and walking can fit into these projects. Though P3s are becoming an attractive option, our resource goes over some potential benefits and problems with P3s, as well as additional considerations for bicycling and walking advocates.

We also convened a special webinar about public-private partnerships featuring:

  • Donald Cohen, Executive Director, In The Public Interest
  • Jim Reed, Group Director for Environment, Energy and Transportation, National Conference of State Legislatures
  • Will Kerns, Transportation Planner, 36 Community Solutions and Open Plan Consultants 

Download the combined PDF presentations.

Here are 3 key messages that emerged from the webinar:

Massive need, but the devil’s in the details

Donald Cohen, Executive Director for In The Public Interest, noted that P3s have come about because of a massive need for infrastructure in the United States – noting that the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the U.S. needs $3.6 trillion in infrastructure investment by 2020.

Cohen cautioned that although P3s may seem like an attractive option to improve the country’s infrastructure, there’s a cautionary tale of how they might play out in reality. As Cohen said, “The devil’s in the details,” especially with long-term contracts that may negatively affect how the project can be used, including limiting options for new bus rapid transit routes, open streets events, and future policy changes.

With P3s, it’s important to have guidance and policy to ensure that everyone knows and understands the public goals before entering into a particular public-private partnership.

To learn more about P3 considerations, click here to watch Donald Cohen’s presentation on the webinar.

P3 legislation varies state by state

Jim Reed, the Group Director for Environment, Energy and Transportation at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) gave a great overview of how P3s vary between states due to features in legislation. To date, 33 states have enabling legislation for P3s in transportation. As a helpful resource, NCSL has a database of transportation legislation so people can learn more about each state and its legislative approvals.

NCSL has also produced a toolkit with guidance and best practices to assist state legislatures as they consider whether and how to pursue P3s in their states. Reed stressed that with P3s, the protection of the public interest is paramount and that P3s are great opportunities for debate, explanation, and education-and to address misconceptions. Early stakeholder involvement is important as it protects the public interest with a P3 project.

To learn more about how P3s vary by state, click here to watch Jim Reed’s presentation on the webinar.

Be proactive and get biking and walking included early

Will Kerns, Transportation Planner at 36 Commuting Solutions and Open Plan Consultants, gave an overview of how P3s have worked in Colorado with the U.S. 36 Bikeway, a 12-foot multiuse path connecting Boulder to Denver. In addition to the bikeway, the U.S. 36 Corridor is a multimodal corridor that includes express lanes for bus rapid transit, carpools, and tolled vehicles; the reconstruction of 6 aging bridges and interchanges.

To get bicycle improvements included into the U.S. 36 Corridor, Kerns stressed the importance of being involved in the planning process early to ensure that bicycling and walking was included in the initial vision. As a result of proactive biking advocates, the bikeway was included in the environmental impact statement’s record of decision and is now under construction.

To learn more about U.S. 36, click here to watch Will Kern’s presentation on the webinar.

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