I’ve blogged several times about public/private partnerships as a potential solution for Georgia’s transportation problems. Today the Georgia Public Policy Foundation has some encouraging news on that front. Georgia Officials have been to Texas to talk with them about their experience with this idea:
Texas faces many of the problems that Georgia does. A fast growing state with significant congestion in its urban centers, it has an estimated transportation funding shortfall of $66 billion and limited opportunities for new taxes. Its aggressive approach to both alternative funding opportunities and alternative project delivery mechanisms appears to be having a positive impact on developing new transportation infrastructure. Texas transportation officials repeatedly told their Georgia visitors that Texas has declared itself “open for business” in seeking private sector participation.
The Texas Legislature enacted public/private partnership (PPP) legislation in 2003, allowing private investment in the transportation system and providing for innovative project delivery and management that results in reduced costs and faster project delivery. That same year, Georgia Legislature enacted SB 257, our version of PPP legislation. Since enacting its legislation, Texas has generated about $6 billion in private investment. Georgia has yet to approve its first proposal.
Essentially, all of Texas’ investment is associated with toll projects that provide alternative routes to already-congested corridors or open new areas for development. Excess revenue generated from those projects can then be reinvested in new transportation projects, which may or may not be tolled. Like Georgia, Texas has a policy against converting existing general purpose lanes to toll lanes. High occupancy toll (HOT) lane systems developed in Dallas and Houston are generally intended to manage congestion rather than generate revenue. (HOT lanes generally provide free access to transit vehicles and carpools, but charge single occupant vehicles to avoid congestion on the general purpose lanes.)
Georgia is considering a network of HOT lanes on the interstates and Georgia 400. Georgia 400, currently the state’s only toll road, is the only project that seems to be moving through the approval process and likely to generate any significant private sector investment.