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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

6. Conclusions

Pavement drawing

The goal of the P3 Program is to improve the state of the practice regarding the consideration and use of P3s by improving the transportation community’s understanding of this project delivery method. Through its development of educational publications, evaluation tools, and technical resources, the P3 Program seeks to build expertise and improve decisionmaking through the four phases of P3 implementation: legislation and policy, planning and evaluation, procurement, and monitoring and oversight.

The evaluation findings show that the P3 Program has been very successful in making information available to transportation practitioners interested in P3s, providing a strong foundation for the contemplation of this project delivery method. The program has reached hundreds, if not thousands, of transportation practitioners since its introduction in 2013. The most active user groups include State and local transportation agencies, FHWA Division Office staff, and P3 advisors from financial, legal, and engineering firms. The evaluation shows that program materials have influenced decisions made by user groups in the planning and evaluation phases.

Despite the program’s impressive reach and its noted utility in providing foundational information, it is not seen as a complete P3 resource. P3 Program users look to other information sources to complement what the program provides. Practitioners note that there is room for improvement in meeting the unique needs of practitioners in specific phases of P3 implementation, particularly when designing State legislation and policy and during project-specific planning and evaluation activities. In addition, more information is needed to make conclusions about the P3 Program’s impact on project procurement and during project monitoring and oversight. Few projects have reached these implementation phases since the inception of the P3 Program, limiting evaluation.

Legislation and Policy

Although passing P3 enabling legislation is the first step in the P3 implementation process, it has not been the focus of the P3 Program. In the past 3 years, legislative activity has more than doubled as States look to this project delivery method to overcome budget constraints. While many documents and trainings available in the P3 Program would be valuable to legislative and executive staffs, findings indicate that few are aware of or using P3 Program resources. Those involved in legislation and policy rely on other resources including P3 legal advisors, other States’ legislation, and sources such as the NCSL. Future planning efforts should consider if the P3 Program wants to expand efforts to serve this user group, improving awareness and better organizing content relevant to legislation and policy.

Planning and Evaluation

The P3 Program serves multiple user groups during the planning and evaluation stages of the P3 implementation process. FHWA Division Office staff, State and local agencies, and P3 advisors are all active during this period. While most practitioners agree that P3 Program resources are helpful for providing an overview of P3s and the P3 implementation process, the impact of these resources on activities and decisions made during the planning and evaluation phase tends to vary by user group.


Users from FHWA saw the P3 Program as a useful general resource in the following ways:

State and Local Agencies

Users from State and local agencies saw the P3 Program as useful when they had direct federal assistance to accompany it in the following ways:

P3 Advisors

There is a mixed picture of P3 usage by P3 advisors, but more research is needed for the following reasons.

Evaluation findings across user groups suggest there is only moderate use of P3 Program resources today for planning and evaluation activities and decisions. The opportunity for P3 Program use will grow as P3s become more prevalent within transportation. With continued support, the P3 Program will become more important to practitioners, as it guides P3 teams through the P3 planning and evaluation phases. Users should be made aware of this P3 information resource, but they also need guidance to maximize its value.


Aside from FHWA Division Office staff, there was little mention of the use of P3 Program materials for procurement. FHWA staff in project roles did note that they accessed documents from the P3 Toolkit website, including model contract guides and P3 project profiles to help teams during the procurement process. As the P3 Program adds additional documents pertaining to procurement and more State and local agencies implement P3s, there will be more opportunities to evaluate the impact of the P3 Program on decisions in this area.

Monitoring and Oversight

Similar to procurement, there were only a few P3 Program resources related to project monitoring and oversight. FHWA Division Office staff mentioned downloading Federal oversight documents, but few State or local agencies using P3 Program resources had reached this stage of the implementation process. As a result, the current evaluation cannot comment on the impact of the P3 Program on monitoring or oversight practices or decisions. Future evaluations should revisit this area after more documents are added and/or more agencies reach the final phase of the P3 implementation process.

P3 Approval Decisions

The evaluation data support the idea that there is a connection between the use of P3 Program materials and approval decisions on P3 Projects at the State or local level. The available data was not specific enough, however, to allow the evaluation team to identify specific information resources that support approval decisions. Future research efforts should try to understand what resources are most helpful to State and local transportation departments as they make the case for use of P3s.

Recommendations to Improve Program Impact

All user groups had suggestions for how the P3 Program could provide more value during the P3 implementation process. Experienced practitioners suggest that the program focus more on developing publication and tools geared toward beginners. They note that some materials try to stretch too far to serve both beginners and advanced practitioners, serving neither well. The P3 Program team agrees that there should be a distinction between resources for “beginner” and “advanced” users but believes there is the need to serve both groups as P3s become more common in transportation.

Practitioners across all groups saw the opportunity for the P3 Program to serve the transportation community as a comprehensive source of real-world P3 examples (e.g., P3 legislation, P3 agreements, P3 cases, evaluation inputs) The unique needs of each P3 project make it difficult for off-the-shelf materials to adequately serve teams, but combined with real-world examples and peer sharing opportunities, the program could have considerable value to all P3 practitioners.



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