Pa. looks to approve public-private partnerships—again

Funding mechanism has been defeated three times, and policy expert says it “is not a panacea”

News Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 31, 2011
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Publicly and privately, Pennsylvania state legislators have expressed their concerns over leasing road and bridge networks across the state. However, state Rep. Rick Geist plans on reintroducing a bill to allow public-private partnerships. It will mark his fourth attempt, but with Pennsylvania facing a $4 billion deficit—and Gov. Tom Corbett refusing to raise taxes and fees—the necessary support might finally surface.

A state advisory committee said that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) will need an additional $3.5 billion annually to address its needs, and the agency announced it only expects to see $1.7 billion in lettings in 2011 compared to $2.1 billion in 2010. PennDOT announced it bid out just over $66.5 million in projects in January.

However, a policy expert believes public-private partnerships would only net a small gain in the state’s transportation needs.

“The partnerships might account for 10 to 15% of the problem,” said Greg Grasa, a policy analyst for the House Transportation Committee’s Republican caucus. “This is not a panacea.”

According to Geist, and eight-member board would oversee the public-private partnerships program, and would include the state secretaries of transportation and budget, PennDOT’s deputy secretary for planning, four people appointed by legislative leaders and one appointed by the governor.

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