Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure needs far surpass the Commonwealth’s ability to fund them. According to a 2010 study by the State Transportation Advisory Committee, an additional $3.5 billion a year is needed to fully meet those needs.
To close the funding gap and facilitate the development of new transportation facilities throughout the Commonwealth, Pennsylvania, on July 5, 2012, joined the growing number of states in enacting "P3" legislation, the moniker given to Private / Public / Partnership legislation. The P3 legislation is intended to facilitate the infusion of private funds and capital into public projects.
The rationale behind the P3 legislation is to stimulate public transportation projects by utilizing the entrepreneurship, ingenuity and capital of the private sector for use in public projects. A public agency may solicit projects through a request for public transportation project proposals in accordance with the legislation. A request may also be unsolicited. P3 project proposals will then be evaluated and either approved or rejected by a seven-member Public-Private Transportation Partnership Board. The Board will evaluate each proposal to determine which has the best value for, and is in the best interest of, the public entity. Private developers will earn a return on their investment over time, most likely through tolling.
P3s alone will not solve Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure problems, but they can be another device that can be utilized in order to fix an antiquated transportation infrastructure system. It will be interesting to see if the P3 legislation will stimulate Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure needs, or whether much-needed projects will stagnate in political quagmire.