Administration and Finance

While a number of states have deployed public-private partnerships (P3s) to tackle infrastructure projects over the last decade, many believe the P3 industry in this country still has yet to take off in the way it has elsewhere in the world. That’s despite demonstrated success of P3s in traditional areas like managed lane projects and promising developments in a variety of new asset classes including airports, broadband projects and high-tech applications. And while the Trump administration looks to encourage more P3s and institutionalize their practices in federal programs, there are many factors that could limit growth in the industry and prevent any kind of a much-needed infrastructure push from ever getting off the ground in the years ahead.

While a number of states have deployed public-private partnerships (P3s) to tackle infrastructure projects over the last decade, many believe the P3 industry in this country still has yet to take off in the way it has elsewhere in the world. That’s despite demonstrated success of P3s in traditional areas like managed lane projects and promising developments in a variety of new asset classes including airports, broadband projects and high-tech applications. And while the Trump administration looks to encourage more P3s and institutionalize their practices in federal programs, there are many factors that could limit growth in the industry and prevent any kind of a much-needed infrastructure push from ever getting off the ground in the years ahead. Those were just some of the takeaways from the Inframation Group’s U.S. P3 Infrastructure Forum 2018 held June 13-14 in New York City. The annual event brings together state and federal public officials and regional transportation authorities, along with infrastructure developers, investors and financiers to talk about the issues shaping the P3 industry’s future.

I have an article in this week’s issue of CSG’s The Current State wrapping up the various perspectives on the prospects for infrastructure investment in 2018 that were proffered during Infrastructure Week last month in Washington. But another topic that received some attention from various I-Week speakers and participants involved something else emphasized in President Trump’s infrastructure plan issued in February: streamlining the process by which infrastructure projects receive the go-ahead to move forward, which can often produce years-long project delays.

At a May 14 event to kick off Infrastructure Week 2018 in Washington, D.C., U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao both reiterated the Trump administration’s hopes for a comprehensive infrastructure package this year and acknowledged the challenge inherent in making it a reality.

“This administration sent out a bill on Feb. 12 of this year to the Congress and we hope that there will be a bipartisan effort to talk about how we can rebuild and repair our infrastructure,” she said. “The difficulty is how do we pay for it.”

In addition to the prospects for a federal infrastructure package in 2018, one of the other major topics at various events during Infrastructure Week 2018 (May 14-21) in Washington, D.C. was public-private partnerships. The National Association of Counties and the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings hosted an event May 17 on “modernizing infrastructure policies to advance” P3s. Two veterans of P3 deals, John Porcari of WSP and Judah Gluckman of the D.C. Office of Public-Private Partnerships, were among the panelists. Here’s a report on some of what was said. 

While a comprehensive infrastructure bill may not be in the cards for 2018, that doesn’t mean infrastructure won’t factor into this year’s Congressional agenda. It also didn’t mean Infrastructure Week (May 14-21) was completely devoid of infrastructure-related news. Far from it. Here’s a roundup of some of the infrastructure news from the last couple of weeks.

Greetings from Washington, D.C. As Infrastructure Week 2018 kicks off today here and around the country, a federal infrastructure push appears increasingly unlikely this year. For state and local governments that means doing what they’ve been doing for years: trying to fill the gap.

Voters in Nashville will head to the polls May 1 to consider a ballot measure that would increase four taxes to pay for a multibillion-dollar mass transit proposal. The referendum was made possible by Tennessee’s 2017 transportation funding legislation, known as the IMPROVE Act, which in addition to increasing gas and diesel taxes and registration fees also allowed voters in the state’s largest counties and four largest cities to consider local tax increases that would be dedicated to transit projects. The Nashville referendum is perhaps the most significant transportation-related initiative on the ballot in the 2018 primaries and is being touted as Music City’s best opportunity to keep mounting traffic woes at bay in the years ahead.

With many legislatures wrapping up sessions this month or already adjourned sine die, it seems like a good time to check in on efforts to seek additional transportation revenues. This year appears to be holding true to form as an even-number election year when votes for gas tax increases and other measures are a bit harder to come by. Still, some states have experienced limited success in moving measures while others remain hopeful for action this year on the transportation funding front.

Following a nationwide search for a place in which to locate its second headquarters, Amazon is expected to announce a winner perhaps soon from among a group of 20 finalists announced in January. As I noted in a post last Fall, the heated competition for HQ2 has not only demonstrated the growing importance of ecommerce and logistics to the nation’s economy but also allowed communities to tout existing infrastructure assets or proposed infrastructure improvements as part of their bids to attract the project. As the finalists have tried to shore up their bids in recent weeks and those that failed to make the list have begun to examine what went wrong, transportation and infrastructure issues have come into play in a variety of ways.

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