A few weeks ago, Eric the Younger wrote up a post describing the problems with the federal Highway Trust Fund. At this point, the Trust Fund is running out of funds, and is expected to stop sending money to the states the week of July 18th.
Congress is working on a new highway bill, known as the GROW AMERICA Act. That by the way is an acronym for Generating Renewal, Opportunity, and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency, and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America. The bill would provide a total of $302 billion over four years, out of which $200 million would to go roads, with the rest to transit, rail and multi-modal projects. Prospects for the bill’s passage by the time current funding runs out, or even by the August Congressional recess, are cloudy. The upcoming resignation of Eric Cantor from GOP leadership is also seen as an impediment to passing the bill.
What does this mean for Georgia, and more specifically for metro Atlanta? After the TSPLOST was voted down two years ago, there have been few options for adding transportation infrastructure, largely because most of the federal funding the state receives goes to maintenance and debt service.
In their latest newsletter, the Council for Quality Growth outlines a possible solution: Public Private Partnerships. These partnerships, known by the acronym P3s, can fund transportation priorities through a combination of federal dollars, state or local matching funds, and private investment. Their newsletter highlights P3 projects in Denver for transit and in Dallas for road infrastructure improvements.
The Council suggests that P3s could be the solution to building projects in metro Atlanta.
The boom of P3 projects around the U.S. suggest that the model not only has a high propensity for success, but also reduces the burden of construction on the taxpayers and promotes partnerships across sectors to meet critical infrastructure needs. While the Atlanta area is ripe for reform and the Metro population recognizes the need for a solution, they have shown reluctance to bear the upfront cost of construction; the P3 model may be the best solution.
GDOT is expected to use a P3 for both the Northwest Corridor Managed Lanes project (HOT lanes on I-75) and the multimodal passenger terminal proposed for downtown Atlanta’s Gulch. In addition, the Council suggests that a P3 might be appropriate for Cobb County’s project to bring transit from Kennesaw to the Arts Center Station.
P3s are probably not the complete answer to the state and region’s transportation funding needs, but they can be a part of it. Or, as the Council says,
In examining the Metro Region’s current challenges and the success that other regions are experiencing, one this is clear: a unified commitment and collaboration across sectors and municipalities is needed to meet ongoing transportation infrastructure needs. By finding innovative funding sources and solutions to help overcome prohibitive upfront costs, the Metro Region’s projects are more likely to receive federal grants and funding, much like the funding awarded to Orlando and Charlotte. Public-private partnerships are another tool in the toolbox that the Metro Region needs in order to remain competitive and provide infrastructure that will sustain continued growth.
The PDF newsletter is below the fold.