This study was prepared at the request of the Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and focuses on the following questions: (1) What are public-private partnerships and how often are they used? (2) Does private financing increase the resources available to build, operate, and maintain roads? (3) Do public-private partnerships build roads more quickly or at a lower cost? The report finds that private financing will increase the availability of funds for highway construction only in cases in which states or localities have chosen to restrict their spending by imposing legal constraints or budgetary limits on themselves. The reason is that revenues from the users of roads and from taxpayers are the ultimate source of money for highways, regardless of the financing mechanism chosen. On the basis of evidence from a small number of studies, such partnerships have built highways slightly less expensively and slightly more quickly, compared with the traditional public-sector approach.
This report reviews (1) the benefits, costs, and trade-offs of highway public-private partnerships; (2) how public officials have identified and acted to protect the public interest in these arrangements; and (3) the federal role in highway public-private partnerships and potential changes in this role. As input into the study, GAO reviewed federal legislation, interviewed federal, state, and other officials, and reviewed the experience of Australia, Canada, and Spain. GAO recommends that Congress consider directing the Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with Congress and other stakeholders, to develop objective criteria for identifying potential national public interests in highway P3s.
This 2007 report sheds light on the growing use of P3s for transit capital projects—a trend which has been driven more by local transit agencies than Federal government encouragement or promotion—to provide significant new sources of funding for transit, help address the country's urban congestion crisis, and enhance mobility in many of the country's metropolitan areas. This report identifies and examines the costs, benefits, and efficiencies of applying P3 delivery approaches to transit projects.