NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Public-Private Partnerships in National Infrastructure

March 5, 2012

With the increased focus on improving national infrastructure, many state and city governments are turning to private-sector companies to invest in profit-bearing roadway improvements.  Specifically, improvements in technology (tollways without toll booths, for example) have allowed greater participation by businesses to expand road capacity via high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, says Robert Poole, the Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow and director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation.

By allowing corporations to obtain a profit from their infrastructure investment, city governments across the country have harnessed a vast new source of investment that has already proved fruitful in many cases.

  • In Atlanta, the Georgia Department of Transportation in December 2009 adopted a $16 billion plan to add express toll lanes to nearly all the metro area's freeways using a public-private partnership.
  • The Florida Department of Transportation addressed congestion in Miami when it added one lane each way when it converted high occupancy vehicle lanes into HOT lanes on I-95 in 2008 and now plans to embrace a similar public-private partnership to rebuild I-595 in Fort Lauderdale.
  • After the local toll agency in Houston financed the addition of two HOT lanes each way as part of the complete reconstruction of the Katy Freeway, the Texas Department of Transportation is considering a public-private partnership for much of a planned outer beltway, the Grand Parkway.
  • The Arizona Department of Transportation and the metropolitan planning organization for greater Phoenix are developing plans for a number of HOT lanes in the region, most of which are expected to be privately financed and developed.
  • Los Angeles has seen numerous implementations of new tolling technology, and is now considering several massive private-public projects, including a five-mile toll tunnel on I-710 and the planned 63-mile High Desert Corridor in northern Los Angeles County.

By embracing tolling, these city governments have seen massive improvements to local infrastructure without substantial public financing.  This is especially crucial during the current budget crunch in which many municipal governments will have little elective spending for road upkeep and construction.

Source: Robert Poole, "Unblocking the Box," Reason Magazine, March 2012.

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