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“P3 or Not P3?” That is the Question. Obama Says: “P3.”: New Transportation Investment Center Boosts P3 Projects

July 23, 2014

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President Obama last week formally embraced the expansion of Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) as a means to fill the gap in public sector transportation financing.  Infrastructure developers and project sponsors should look to a planned September 9 summit on infrastructure investment hosted by the U.S. Treasury Department to learn more about how they may gain access to/benefit from expanded resources for P3s.

In an announcement culminating after a series of events aimed at cajoling Congress into addressing the looming deficit in the Highway Trust Fund, the President established the "Build America Transportation Investment Center," a new office in the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) focused on encouraging P3s.  Citing the potential for domestic and foreign investment in American infrastructure, the President moved to create this resource center within DOT to assist states and local governments find ways to expand the use of innovative financing to build needed projects. 

For many years, the Office of Innovative Program Delivery Finance was housed within the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).  This latest move will centralize P3 resources at DOT for highway, transit and other crucial projects, particularly those considered to be of regional and national significance and “those that cross state boundaries,” according to the White House statement. 

If those sorts of projects are truly the focus of this initiative, perhaps there could be new life (or added momentum) for long-planned, but delayed projects like the Columbia River Crossing in Washington State/Oregon or the New International Trade Crossing between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario or even a variety of high-speed rail proposals that fell victim to budgetary politics during President Obama’s first term.

The President’s announcement offers the promise of additional access to existing DOT credit programs, including the highly successful Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program.  According to government estimates, each dollar of TIFIA loans leverages an additional $10 in private loans, guarantees, and lines of credit.  The new Investment Center will also offer technical assistance to states that wish to expand private infrastructure investment and the 20 states that have not yet entered the P3 market at all.  The Center may offer case studies of successful projects, examples of deal structures, and analytical toolkits.

The White House also announced that the Treasury Department will host a summit on infrastructure investment in the U.S. on September 9, 2014 for state and local officials to meet with their federal counterparts.

Beveridge & Diamond, P.C. offers a full range of counseling and transportation infrastructure development services, including important environmental financing and contract regulations provisions impacting P3 projects.  Fred Wagner, the most recent FHWA Chief Counsel, helped shepherd many important P3 projects through the approval and agency review process and worked within DOT to implement new P3 provisions from MAP-21, the last surface transportation reauthorization act.  For more information, please contact the authors or any member of the Firm’s Natural Resources and Project Development Practice.

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