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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

House transportation committee issues final report on public-private funding for infrastructure projects

Earlier this week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's (T&I) panel on public-private partnerships (P3s) released a final report and recommendations on how to balance public and private interests when using P3s to finance the nation's infrastructure.

T&I Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-W.V.) tasked the panel in January to examine the current use of P3s across the committee's jurisdiction, including all modes of transportation, as well as public buildings, water and maritime infrastructure. U.S. Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) chaired the panel.

"We know the private sector has significant interest in investing in U.S. infrastructure, but the challenge has been how to make sure our federal policies allow this potential to be responsibly unlocked while also protecting the public interest,” said Shuster in a press release.

The panel studied numerous P3 arrangements and found a mix of successful partnerships as well as ones that did not meet expectations, said U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), who served as the panel's ranking member.

"Although a transparent and functioning P3 can meet certain transportation needs, when it comes to improving our nation's infrastructure there is no question that federal investment remains a key factor in project success," Capuano said.

The final report includes recommendations to grow public sector capacity to better structure agreements and ensure the needs of the public are adequately protected. It also proposes improvements to traditional procurement processes to ensure better outcomes for all projects. The recommendations address breaking down barriers to P3s, and changes to federal programs to allow for partnerships to be more easily considered by states and localities.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) hailed the panel's work.

"Public-private partnerships are a valuable form of financing for infrastructure projects. They have proven effective in projects across multiple sectors of infrastructure," said ASCE President Randall Over in a prepared statement. "ASCE agrees with the report's assessment that P3s are not the silver bullet to address our nation's infrastructure investment deficit. The nation needs a boost in traditional funding, as well."

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More News from 9/19/2014