A. Defining PPPs
PPPs are contractual arrangements between public and private sector entities pursuant to which the private sector is involved in multiple elements of public infrastructure projects. Unlike conventional methods of contracting for a project, in which discrete functions are divided and procured through separate solicitations, PPPs contemplate a single private entity being responsible and financially liable for performing all or a significant number of functions in connection with a project. The "private partner" is typically a consortium of private companies with expertise in the different functions to be performed (design, construction, financing, operation and/or maintenance). In transferring responsibility and risk for multiple project elements to the private partner, the procuring agency shifts certain risks to the private partner and focuses on desired outcomes instead of detailed project specifications. The private partner receives the opportunity to earn a financial return commensurate with the risks it assumes. Structured in multiple forms, PPPs vary generally according to the scope of responsibility and degree of risk assumed by the private partner with respect to the project. In each case the private partner assumes financial risk in some form – for example, through an equity investment, liability for indebtedness, a fixed priced contract, or a combination thereof – and risks related to project design, construction, operation and maintenance, as applicable.
The 2004 Report provided a broader definition of PPPs which included any approach to project delivery that allowed more private sector participation than is traditional. For that report, the term "PPP" encompassed an expansive set of relationships – from agreements for a limited number of project elements, e.g., contracts where the private sector is responsible for designing and constructing a facility ("Design-Build"), to agreements for several project elements that can be very complicated and technical, e.g. contracts under which the private sector is responsible for the design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance of a facility.
The more focused definition in this report reflects the success of an increasingly utilized subset of PPPs. Long-term, concession-based PPPs were rarely considered, let alone implemented, in the United States prior to 2005. Over the last three years, however, long-term, concession-based PPPs have become more prevalent. In long-term, concession-based PPPs, the private sector generally assumes a significant portion of the financial risk of the project, risks associated with the operation and maintenance of the project, and, in the case of new capacity and capital improvements, risks associated with the project's design and construction. Whether the private sector assumes a significant portion of the risk that the project will not generate enough traffic and revenue to pay for the project's costs is an important component of the structure of a long-term, concession-based PPP. While most of the PPPs in the United States have been for toll road projects in which the concessionaire assumes the traffic risk, some states have begun procuring PPPs utilizing toll free structures in which the concessionaire does not assume any traffic risk, but does assume risks inherent in the facility's design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance.
There are currently more than 20 long-term, concession-based PPP projects at various stages of procurement in the United States. Generally, the value of each of these PPPs ranges from a few hundred million dollars to a few billion dollars, and the total value should all of these projects be delivered can be expected to exceed several billion dollars. Long-term, concession-based PPPs for highway projects have been implemented over the last three years, and the tangible benefits that these projects provide are becoming increasingly clear, especially as the PPP structures utilized by these projects are compared with traditional approaches to project funding and procurement.
B. The Benefits of PPPs
Many of the benefits of PPPs were described in the 2004 Report, including the efficiencies gained from PPPs in project delivery, operations and maintenance. These and similar benefits have been documented by multiple studies over the last few years and are identified below. As PPPs are increasingly utilized in the United States , the value of many of these benefits becomes increasingly clear, including the following:
PPPs can result in significant cost savings. The 2004 Report indicated that PPPs can save from 6 to 40 percent of the cost of construction and significantly limit the potential for cost overruns through innovative contracting. Consolidating responsibility for multiple project elements, including design, construction, and operation, in one private entity can result in cost saving efficiencies that are not possible with the traditional DBB approach. In addition, because cost savings benefit the private partner, and because the private partner is responsible for cost overruns through fixed-price contracts, the private partner has direct incentives to limit costs. By raising private capital rather than public debt, PPPs can also ease public debt burdens and release public funds for other purposes.
The Miami Port Tunnel project provides a good example of the cost savings that can be achieved by a PPP. While planners projected that the Florida Department of Transportation ("FDOT") would need to make annual payments of $68 million to the concessionaire for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the project, each of the three private sector proposals received by FDOT contemplated significantly lower costs, with the bidder selected by FDOT requiring an annual payment less than half that amount, only $33 million.
PPPs can shorten project delivery by several years. By providing access to immediately available private sources of capital, PPPs can accelerate the construction of projects that might otherwise be delayed for years or not be built at all. In addition, the same efficiencies that produce cost savings often enable PPP projects to be constructed faster than traditional projects.
The concession for the Missouri Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program is expected to accelerate significantly the repair or replacement of more than 800 bridges in Missouri through an innovative PPP. The PPP will assign responsibility for completing the work on all of the bridges to one private partner. According to a State Representative, "[w]ith this innovative new approach to transportation we will do in five years what would have taken us 20 before."
PPPs allow for the allocation of risk to the party best able to manage risk. Traditionally, virtually all of the risk associated with the design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance of a transportation project is borne by the public sector. PPPs allow for a significant portion of the project risk to be transferred to the private sector, reducing taxpayer costs. Proper allocation of project risks to the parties (public or private) best able to manage the risks can result in lower overall risk for the project, reduced project costs and accelerated project delivery. Proper risk allocation can also increase the public sector's ability to manage a large number of projects simultaneously.
A PPP structure is enabling the Virginia Department of Transportation to provide a dynamic solution to traffic on one of the most congested corridors in the country, the I-95/Capital Beltway corridor south and west of Washington, DC. Under a PPP structure the concessionaire is assuming the financial, technological and operational risks of implementing a complicated, variable rate, congestion pricing mechanism for the corridor. The concessionaire is willing to assume these risks because it will earn a return on its investment if the project is successful.
PPPs can encourage innovations and the incorporation of life-cycle costs. PPPs can encourage the incorporation of life-cycle costs in the design and construction of a facility which often leads to delivery of a higher quality transportation project. PPPs can also encourage the private sector to come forward with creative ideas for improving the quality of public transportation infrastructure.
A survey of 37 PPP projects in the United Kingdom concluded that private partners in PPPs build higher quality facilities in order to reduce the long term costs of operation and maintenance. In the Design-Build arrangements for the Largo Metrorail Extension in Washington, DC, the Design-Build contractor utilized a jet van tunnel ventilation system rather than the vent shaft system that the procuring agency had used for other tunnels because the jet van system is easier to maintain and more efficient to operate. This innovation saved an estimated $10 million in project costs.
These examples demonstrate that state and local authorities are using PPPs to reduce costs, accelerate project delivery, allocate risk more effectively and encourage innovation.
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