House hearing to focus on private funding

| 4/16/2007

U.S. Transportation Department Secretary Mary Peters could soon be selecting three projects to be part of a pilot program that is supposed to demonstrate the advantages and disadvantages of private funding for infrastructure.

Private funding partnerships with government is the main topic of a hearing of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, scheduled for 10 a.m. EDT, Tuesday, April 17 on Capitol Hill.

Ever since President Bush signed the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users – or SAFETEA-LU – into law in 2005, former Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta and Peters have been rolling out the red carpet to private investors interested in U.S. infrastructure.

The pilot program will provide federal financial assistance for large capital projects according to a document available on the House subcommittee Web site, found here.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, chaired by Rep. James Oberstar, D-MN, previously conducted two public hearings on the subject of private financing of infrastructure. The first hearing was about long-term leases of infrastructure in May 2006.

At the second hearing in February 2007, Oberstar and other panelists held DOT officials’ and privatization advocates’ feet to the fire for wanting to sell off infrastructure to the highest bidder.

The hearing Thursday is the third installment of the subcommittee’s ongoing series of hearings on the subject of privatization.

Two panels are scheduled to speak Thursday. The first panel consists of James Ray, acting deputy administrator for the Federal Highway Administration; David B. Horner, chief counsel with the Federal Transit Administration; John Njord, director of the Utah Department of Transportation; and Fred Hanson, general manager of the TriMet mass transit agency of Portland, OR.

The second panel is Paul Yarossi, president of HNTB Holdings Ltd.; Richard Thomas, director of governmental affairs for Ames Construction of Minnesota; Maria Lehman, chief operating officer with Chazen Companies of New York; and Bruce Blanning, executive director of Professional Engineers in California Government.