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The Future of Public-Private Partnerships

The Future of Public-Private Partnerships

Arlington Virginia skyline view of Washington DC, The Potomac River, the Pentagon, and the Air Force Memorial.

By Luke Carothers

When the need for new and/or updated infrastructure projects in the United States, as well as other areas of the world, is brought forward, it is almost inevitably followed by the question of how to pay for these projects.  One solution to this question is the P3 (Public-Private Partnership), which is a partnership formed between one or more private companies and one or more government institutions.  Transurban–one of the leading toll road developers and operators across the United States, Canada, and Australia–is leading the way in terms of using the power of P3s to develop innovative transportation solutions.  

Transurban’s Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Innovation, Emeka Moneme, believes that P3s, “unlock a number of opportunities for governments, local communities, and the private sector.”  Moneme cites Transurban’s work in the Greater Washington Area where they have saved more than 7 million drivers more than 17 million hours of driving time.  Transurban’s work in the area has also generated $7 billion in economic impact, providing 46,000 jobs in construction and development since 2012.  In the area, Transurban operates a growing network of managed lanes including the 53-miles of Express Lanes on I-495, I-95, and I-395 in Northern Virginia.  

Moneme, who has more than 20 years of experience across the transportation, finance, and real estate sectors with deep relationships in the transportation sector, believes that the power of P3s is demonstrated in their ability to deliver innovative funding, mobility, and policy solutions.

In terms of innovative funding solutions for infrastructure and transportation projects, P3s are capable of delivering with less financial risk with the added bonus of shifting the burden away from taxpayers, which is alluring to small governmental institutions.  In exchange for future revenue streams, P3s allow private sector firms to provide initial financing.  With the private sector’s ability to raise funds for projects, small public contributions can have a huge impact.  This was the case with Transurban’s Virginia Expressway Lanes network where the Commonwealth has seen a 55x ROI from its initial investment.

Moneme believes P3s, “bring together the best” in terms of government/public and private capabilities.  This is in reference to the mobility afforded by such partnerships, giving commuters choice and reliability to get to their destination quicker and help alleviate congestion in growing cities.  The Express Lanes in Virginia are the most technologically advanced in the United States; they are monitored by nearly 20,000 data points which are collected through technological features such as: microwave vehicle detection systems, dynamic messaging signs, lane use control systems, and tolling gantries.  Each of these data points is monitored at Transurban’s command center in Alexandria.  

P3s are also capable of being powerful tools to respond to evolving public policy objectives of the government.  According to Moneme, “Concession agreements in Virginia have been able to deliver the first carpooling incentive on the busy Capital Beltway encircling Washington, D.C., have provided reliable year-over-year funding for transit investments, and have provided flexibility in revenue sharing opportunities that contributed funding towards Virginia’s win for Amazon HQ2”.

In addition to their capacity to deliver innovative funding, mobility, and policy solutions, Transurban operates under a commitment to the communities in which it operates.  This begins with the belief that it has a corporate responsibility to elevate industry practices beyond conforming to baseline laws and regulations, by generating sustainable benefits at a local and global scale.  Their sustainability commitment aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which are founded on four pillars: people, planet, places, and partnerships.  

Luke Carothers is the Editor for Civil + Structural Engineer Media. If you want us to cover your project or want to feature your own article, he can be reached at lcarothers@zweiggroup.com.