Feds to supply states with standards for PPP contracts

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 1/16/2013

Allowing the private sector to dictate the terms of public-private partnerships including toll roads is like allowing a fox to guard the henhouse. The Federal Highway Administration is proposing model language to states on how public-private partnerships should be financed, developed and constructed to protect public interests. OOIDA plans to comment on the proposal.

“These documents could be an important tool in educating state lawmakers and the public about what the true impacts of PPPs will be versus what they’re told by private operators or the state DOT,” OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Ryan Bowley told Land Line.

Bowley attended a Federal Highway Administration listening session on the proposal on Wednesday, Jan. 16, in Washington, DC.

“Proponents of PPPs term them as free money to states, and it’s important that state policymakers and the public understand what these contracts are all about before these things are finalized,” Bowley said.

“Too often, they’re negotiated in secret, and it’s only after the ink is dry before it’s released to the public,” he continued. “It’s only afterwards that the public can see what they’re really about and their lawmakers have already signed up for it.”

The initiative to provide guidance and protections to states is a requirement of the 2012 highway law known as MAP-21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century.

The public has a chance to comment on the model-language proposal in the FHWA docket. Comments are open through the end of May. The official docket number is FHWA-2012-0126.

Mail comments to U.S. Department of Transportation, Dockets Management Facility, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20590, or fax to 202-493-2551.

“We will continue to weigh in,” Bowley said.

“It’s important that the DOT be the balancing agent in the room,” he said. “Many states are lured in by the promise of what PPPs can provide and are convinced there is little political cost. The focus is more on getting a deal done rather than what the deal says.”

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