House Transportation Committee leaders warn states about public-private partnerships

Partnerships may not protect public interest

News AGC of America May 16, 2007
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House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) sent a letter to governors, state legislators and state transportation officials on May 14 warning them not to rush into public-private partnerships (PPP) that involve highways. The chairmen's letter said that such arrangements may not protect the public interest and that they will work to break up agreements that do not.

"Although we invite all financing options to be on the table as we evaluate opportunities to increase investment in our nation's infrastructure, we strongly caution you against rushing into PPPs that do not fully protect the public interest, the integrity of the national system, and which do not constitute a sustainable national system of transportation financing," the chairmen wrote. "We have serious concerns about states entering into PPP agreements that improve selected segments of our surface transportation network but undermine the integrity of a national system."

The letter also cited the Bush administration's efforts to promote highway PPPs, to the point of drafting model legislation for states to adopt. The committee said it is preparing a discussion paper "in the coming days" to present its concerns in more detail and respond to the administration's claims. The letter said that the committee could act against some PPPs in the next surface transportation authorization bill.

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