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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-17-072    Date:  February 2018
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-17-072
Date: February 2018


FHWA Research And Technology Evaluation: Public-Private Partnership Capacity Building Program

1. Introduction

Bridge drawing

1.1 Evaluation Purpose

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has initiated an effort to evaluate their Research and Technology (R&T) Development Program. Leaders of governmental transportation R&T programs need to be able to effectively communicate the impacts of their programs. The R&T evaluation program helps FHWA assess how effectively it is meeting its goals and objectives and provides useful data to inform future project selections. For each evaluation, the FHWA’s R&T Evaluation Program evaluation team (referred to as the “evaluation team” throughout this report) is made up of non-FHWA, third-party evaluators not involved in the research programs and projects being evaluated. The FHWA Center for Innovative Finance Support (formerly the Strategic Delivery Team in the Office of Innovative Program Delivery (IPD)) identified the Public-Private Partnership (P3) Capacity Building Program (P3 Program) as one of its efforts to be evaluated. The purpose of this evaluation is to understand how the P3 Program helps transportation practitioners build knowledge and technical expertise on P3s that inform decisions related to the consideration, development, and implementation of P3 projects.

The Center for Innovative Finance Support’s P3 Program addresses the FHWA R&T Agenda through the following three objectives:(5)

  1. Conduct research in the areas of financial stewardship and innovative program delivery.
  2. Develop innovative procurement and revenue generation tools and technical resources.
  3. Build technical expertise at the Federal, State, and local levels in the use and stewardship of innovative program delivery methods and programs.

Through these objectives, the P3 Program seeks to improve the state of the practice regarding the consideration and use of P3s. The P3 Program researches and reports on P3 methods, develops tools and technical resources to guide P3 consideration and use, and helps the transportation community build expertise through education programs and technical assistance in support of these objectives.

The evaluation team identified four hypotheses for the P3 Program evaluation through initial discussions with members of the R&T Evaluation Team and P3 Program staff. An iterative series of discussions led to the development of the P3 Program logic model (see section 2.1), which identifies the inputs, activities, and outputs from the program that produce short-term outcomes and long-term impacts. These hypotheses are detailed in table 1 below.

Table 1. Hypotheses by impact type.

Impact Type

Evaluation Hypothesis


Short-term outcome

The FHWA P3 Program provides the most complete set of information resources to assist transportation practitioners in all phases of the P3 implementation process.

The degree to which P3 Program resources are used to inform P3 enabling legislation as well as P3 project development, procurement, and oversight, and the perceived value of the resources compared to those available elsewhere.

Medium/long-term impact

The FHWA P3 Program helps increase legislative and policy support for transportation P3s in State and local governments.

The extent to which P3 Program resources have been used by States to inform legislation and policy that support transportation P3 use.

Medium/long-term impact

The FHWA P3 Program has led to more informed decisions on consideration and use (approval) of P3s for appropriate transportation projects.

The extent to which consideration and approval decisions for transportation P3s, since the inception of the P3 Program, can be linked to use of P3 Program resources.

Medium/long-term impact

The FHWA P3 Program improves the decisionmaking capabilities of transportation practitioners in the areas of P3 development, procurement, and oversight.

The degree to which P3 Program resources contribute to increasing the knowledge and decisionmaking capabilities of transportation practitioners at each stage of the P3 implementation process.

1.2 Report Structure

Section 1 provides an overview of the purpose of the evaluation and a high-level description of the P3 Program.

Section 2 describes the evaluation methodology, including data sources, data collection methods, and data analysis methods.

Section 3 summarizes the depth and breadth of the P3 Program’s usage.

Section 4 summarizes the findings of the evaluation. This section is broken down into four sections based on the evaluation hypotheses.

Section 5 describes the evaluation team’s recommendations for the P3 Program based on the findings of the evaluation. The recommendations are proposals that the evaluation team developed to address certain findings about the program.

Section 6 contains general conclusions that the evaluation team drew from the evaluation.

1.3 P3 Program Background

Origins of the P3 Program

FHWA established the IPD in October 2008 and restructured it in May 2016. Under its prior structure, the mission of IPD was to expand State and local government capacity to consider, evaluate, and exercise appropriate stewardship in implementing alternative strategies for funding and financing transportation infrastructure.(2) IPD promoted innovative financing strategies to help overcome resource constraints, address energy and environmental considerations, and promote efficiencies in transportation project delivery.(2) P3s are one of the innovative strategies supported.

P3s differ from traditional methods of procuring and financing highway projects where the public sector maintains responsibility for each project phase. In P3s, a private entity assumes responsibility for some combination of the design, construction, financing, operations, and maintenance of an infrastructure project. Proponents claim that the private entity’s financial stake increases motivation for effective management of costs, schedule, and risks.(4)

To improve the transportation community’s understanding of the structure, development, and implementation of P3s, IPD launched the P3 Toolkit in June 2013. The P3 Toolkit is an educational resource consisting of analytical tools and guidance documents that assist those exploring, developing, and implementing P3s. The P3 Toolkit addresses Federal requirements related to P3s and covers four key phases in P3 development and implementation: legislation and policy, planning and evaluation, procurement, and monitoring and oversight. The toolkit forms the base of a broader P3 Program, which includes a curriculum of training courses and webinars.

The P3 Program is part of the newly formed Center for Innovative Finance Support in IPD. The center provides tools, expertise, and support for financing to help the transportation community explore and implement innovative strategies to deliver costly and complex infrastructure projects.FHWA encourages the consideration of P3s in the development of transportation improvements. The increased involvement of the private sector can bring creativity, efficiency, and capital to address complex transportation problems facing State and local governments.

P3 Toolkit Resources

The P3 Toolkit consists of fact sheets, publications, analytical tools and checklists, and outreach and training materials.

Fact sheets are short documents (1–2 pages) presenting a high-level overview of key topics covered in the P3 Toolkit. Fact sheet topics include the following:(6)

Publications are a collection of documents that inform P3 consideration, development, and implementation, building on overviews provided in the fact sheets. Publications include the following:

Analytical Tools and Checklists

Analytical tools, such as the P3-VALUE 2.0 Analytical Tool, and checklists are available for practitioners to aid in understanding the process and concepts of procuring and conducting P3s:

The original P3-VALUE Tool presented a simplified example of the P3 evaluation process to help practitioners understand what goes into this complex activity. Version 2.0 of the P3-VALUE Analytical Tool presents an updated process with enhanced P3 evaluation modules, including benefit–cost analysis. The current version was released in January 2016 and includes the following modules:(32)

The P3-VALUE 2.0 Analytical Tool is supported by a guide that provides information on the concepts behind the tool modules as well as a Quick Start Guide and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).(33,34)

Outreach and training activities bring the resources of the P3 Program directly to transportation practitioners. Outreach and trainings were designed to educate the transportation community on P3s and support the use of the P3 Toolkit.

The following series of webinars was developed to help practitioners understand the P3 evaluation process and the application of the P3-VALUE tool to this process:

The P3-VALUE 1.0 webinar series was conducted twice, once in 2013 and once in 2014, and an updated series for P3-VALUE 2.0 was delivered in early 2016. A brief description of the webinar series offered is described as follows:



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