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VI: Managing Risk in PPPs

In the United States , PPPs are a new, innovative approach to transportation funding and project delivery. While there are risks with PPPs that public officials need to be aware of,[132] it is important to recognize that these risks are manageable and that public officials can mitigate these risks if they take prudent and reasonable steps to ensure that they are creating well balanced PPP programs, performing necessary due diligence before committing to projects, and negotiating well structured concession agreements. In addition, the risks associated with PPPs need to be evaluated in the context of the failings of traditional approaches to project funding and delivery. Policymakers should pursue approaches that improve upon the status quo, recognizing that all approaches to procuring, financing and operating infrastructure assets will entail risks. This section describes some of the risks that have been raised in the context of PPPs, and explains how these risks may be managed.

1. Will private operators take good care of transportation facilities?

Private operators are bound by contractual requirements and market incentives to be good stewards of transportation facilities for which they have assumed a long-term financial risk. In a PPP, a private entity is authorized to operate facilities through carefully negotiated concession agreements with the public authority. These agreements specify performance standards with which the operator must comply relating to facility conditions, safety measures, levels of service and maintenance obligations, among other things (these standards can exceed the standards to which other publicly maintained facilities are subject). Failure by the private operator to meet these performance standards can lead to operating control of the facility and the right to collect further revenues reverting from the operator to the public authority. In addition, where the operator's revenues are made up of tolls or other direct user fees, if the operator is not responding to the concerns of users or otherwise adequately maintaining the facility, the public may choose not to use the facility, thereby reducing revenue and forcing the operator to make changes.

A private operator has incentives to capitalize, operate and maintain a facility as efficiently as possible because many of the costs of poorly maintaining or capitalizing the asset are borne by the operator. A primary purpose of the concession agreement is to make sure to align these incentives with the interests or concerns of the public sector.[133]

2. Aren't public authorities just as good at operating and managing facilities as private operators?

Contractual requirements and market forces often hold a private concessionaire to a greater level of accountability for the operation and maintenance of a facility than would otherwise be required of public authorities. For example, a recent GAO report noted with respect to the Indiana Toll Road that "[a]ccording to a Deputy Commissioner with the Indiana DOT, the standards [of the Indiana Toll Road concession] actually hold the [concessionaire] to a higher level of performance than when the state operated the highway, because the state did not have the funding to maintain the Indiana Toll Road to its own standards."[134] The report also indicated that in the case of the Chicago Skyway, there is greater accountability for its operation and maintenance under the concession, which specifies detailed operations and maintenance standards based on industry best practices, than there had been under public control when there were no formal standards.

For a private operator, accountability to the public authority that granted the concession and to the users of the facility is of primary importance because the concession is the operator's source of revenue. To the extent performance lags and revenues suffer (either through a contractual mechanism or through market forces) the operator bears the risk of defaulting on debt service payments, reporting losses to its shareholders and potentially losing the concession.

Furthermore, while public transportation budgets typically compete for funding with other public programs (education, health care, etc.) and are subject to cuts when funds are not available, private operators have incentive to fully capitalize a facility upfront and to make necessary investments as soon as they are needed in order to reduce costs in the long run.

3. Do public-public partnerships provide the same benefits as PPPs without the risks?

Some states have considered public-public models of procurement in an attempt to capture the benefits of a leveraged toll facility without the potential risks of a private concession. In Texas, for example, after selecting a private concessionaire for the SH-121 toll road project, Texas cancelled the procurement and awarded the project to the North Texas Tollway Authority, a political subdivision of the State (this procurement is described in Section IV). In New Jersey, in early 2008, the State suggested leveraging the value of its major toll roads, the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway and the Atlantic City Expressway, through a public-public partnership, rather than a PPP.[135] The plan would grant a concession for the toll roads to a public benefit corporation created specifically for this purpose. The corporation would borrow money to make a significant upfront payment and would be entitled to collect tolls. Tolls would be increased in accordance with an open and predictable schedule agreed to in the concession agreement. While the debt would be public debt, New Jersey taxpayers would arguably not be responsible for this debt.

Supporters argue that public-public transactions are less expensive than PPPs because they can be fully financed with tax-exempt debt, which is cheaper than taxable debt raised by the private sector (this argument is not applicable in the context of private activity bonds), and because public benefit corporations do not make equity investments which are repaid at a higher rate of return than debt. In addition, they argue that the other risks created by PPPs, such as monopolistic pricing, are avoided. While it is true that a given amount of tax-exempt debt may be cheaper than an identical amount of private debt and equity, the comparison is not so simple.

Preliminarily, it is important to note that public entities do not have unlimited authority to issue debt for all projects. Even if public debt is cheaper than private financing, the choice is often between private financing and not doing the project because public debt is unavailable. PPPs allow the public sector to advance projects without running up against the same debt limitations that make it difficult for the public sector to borrow large amounts of money. States can avoid this problem for some projects by creating non-profit, public benefit corporations, but these types of structures come with additional risks because they are fully leveraged and do not include an equity investment.

Equity is important for at least two primary reasons. First, including equity in the financing package increases the proceeds available for a given project by adding another level of investment on top of the project's debt capacity. Because equity investors can take a more optimistic approach to valuing growth than debt providers this equity investment cannot simply be replaced with more tax-exempt debt. An optimistic approach increases the risk in the investment, but this risk is borne by the private investors in a PPP, not the public sector. The opportunity cost of foregoing an equity investment can be significant. While the opportunity cost may be especially apparent in greenfield projects for which the anticipated toll revenues are uncertain and the debt capacity is commensurately constrained, the opportunity cost is also significant in brownfield projects which rely on valuations of growth in traffic and toll revenue to be generated by the project.

Second, much of the success of PPPs can be attributed to the incentives that are created for the private sector to innovate and provide superior service and accountability for its customers. These incentives are powerful because the private sector's equity investment affords it the opportunity to earn a reward for its innovation. There are no similar incentives in a public-public partnership where there are no equity investments. In these types of deals, the public has incentive to perform at the level required to make necessary payments and may have no incentive to perform any better. In contrast, private operators in PPPs have direct financial incentives to implement additional innovations throughout the term of the concession to attract new customers and enhance speed and throughput.

Private bidders for PPPs must also incorporate cost and service innovations in their proposals if they hope to win the project. A well-crafted, competitive bidding process forces multiple bidders to compete with one another to provide the best deal for the procuring agency. In contrast, in a public-public partnership where there is no competition, a procuring agency has no assurances that the public received the best deal that it could get. While the procuring agency could rely on independent valuations of what a concession is worth, the true value of a concession cannot be ascertained without opening up the process to competitive bids.

Recognizing the benefits that come with private sector equity investments, Congress enacted the PABs program in SAFETEA-LU to help level the playing the field between public and private sector debt. As described in Section IV, PABs permit the issuance by the private sector of tax-exempt bonds to finance highway and freight transfer facilities that are developed, designed, constructed, operated and maintained by the private sector, while maintaining the tax-exempt status of the bonds. By providing the private sector with access to tax-exempt interest rates, PABs make it less expensive for the public sector to access the benefits provided by private sector equity investments.

4. Will private investors only invest in profitable routes, leaving others to crumble?

Investments of private capital free up existing sources of revenue and debt capacity for investment in other transportation priorities. Furthermore, while it is important to recognize that the private sector has an incentive to invest in profitable facilities, this business-oriented investment model can provide significant benefits for underperforming public facilities.

There are also opportunities in PPP procurements to package multiple projects with different risk and return profiles in one concession. In these transactions, the private sector assumes responsibilities for lower return, higher risk projects in exchange for a concession for higher return, lower risk projects. This model is being employed by Mexico for various toll roads and bridges held by FARAC (Fideicomiso de Apoyo al Rescate de Autopistas Concesionadas), a federal agency created to assume control of several Mexican toll roads in the mid-1990s. FARAC expects to offer concessions for as many as 13 different packages of toll roads and bridges, and each package is expected to group highly desirable with less desirable assets. A concession for the first FARAC package, four toll roads in central Mexico with a total length of 548 kilometers, was awarded to Goldman Sachs Infrastructure Partners and Empresas ICA, S.A., a Mexican construction company, on July 18, 2007.

PPPs can also be effective on "non-profitable" routes where tolls won't cover all of the facility's costs and even on projects that do not generate any revenue. In these situations, private bidders can compete on the basis of the lowest level of subsidy they will need to carry out the project. This approach is widely used in Europe and, as indicated in Section IV, is beginning to be utilized on various projects in the United States. For example, the availability payments that will be used to finance the Missouri Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program, the Port of Miami Tunnel, the Oakland Airport Connector, and other projects that are in early stages of procurement, are structured to force the bidders to compete on the lowest level of subsidy that they will accept to design, construct and operate the facility.

5. Will toll facilities be too expensive if they are operated by the private sector?

Concession agreements for toll facilities typically provide that the private operator may not raise toll rates above certain amounts. Toll rate limits can be based on changes in inflation-related indexes, changes in gross domestic product per capita, a fixed percentage rate or any other factor that the public authority deems relevant or useful. (In the context of congestion pricing, maximum toll rates are not efficient; instead, toll rate limits need to provide operators with flexibility to vary tolls based on demand in order to reduce congestion.[136]) Concession agreements typically provide that failure by the private operator to comply with toll rate provisions ultimately leads to control of the facility and the right to collect tolls reverting to the public authority. In addition, if the operator raises toll levels too high, the public may avoid using the facility, forcing the operator to make the facility more affordable. The private operator's revenue is directly dependent on the affordability of the facility.

Setting proper toll rates is especially important if a toll facility is located in a potentially constrained market, or if the public authority is giving the private operator protection from competition. In these situations there may be a risk of monopoly pricing; the operator could conceivably charge prices well in excess of the marginal social cost for use of the facility because users have limited alternatives. To the extent monopoly pricing is a risk, the public authority needs to be vigilant to make sure that the toll rates it negotiates with the private operator reflect the risk and underlying economic reality of the project, recognizing that every facility has unique characteristics. The public authority should also be aware that to the extent it expects to receive revenue from the concession the toll rate structure needs to reflect this revenue.

While monopoly pricing is a risk in constrained markets, the risk can be managed through negotiated toll rates. Another option is to use a shadow toll or availability payment structure, which can provide some of the benefits of PPPs without creating a tolling structure. With shadow tolls and availability payments, the concessionaire has incentive to construct and operate the facility so that it will perform optimally because the concessionaire's revenue is directly related to facility performance, but the risk of monopolistic pricing is eliminated because the concessionaire's revenue is not collected from the users of the facility.

Another option is to create a public commission with power to approve the rates charged by the private operator. For example, the Virginia State Corporation Commission (the "SCC") regulates the toll rates that the private operator is entitled to charge on the Dulles Greenway, the 14-mile northern Virginia toll road connecting Leesburg with the Dulles International Airport. On April 14, 2008, Virginia adopted a law directing the SCC to approve requests for toll rate increases during the period from 2013 to 2020 that are equal to the greater of (i) the increase in the consumer price index from the last toll rate increase, plus one percent, (ii) the increase in the real gross domestic product from the last toll rate increase, or (iii) 2.8 percent.

Some public authorities have used revenue sharing mechanisms to regulate the private partner's return on its investment. Revenue sharing, however, also limits the private partner's incentive to develop and deploy innovations that are in the public's best interest because the private partner may not reap the full benefit of these innovations if their implementation would trigger the revenue sharing mechanism. Regulating the private partner's rate of return also creates incentives for the private partner to "overcapitalize" the project in order to increase revenues without reaching the maximum rate of return. In contrast, toll rate regulations protect users from monopolistic pricing without limiting the private partner's incentive to develop and deploy innovations. For this reason, in similar industries with more extensive experience regulating private operators, economists largely prefer price regulation to rate of return regulation.[137]

6. Is tolling and pricing unfair to low-income drivers?

The impact of tolling and pricing on people with low incomes must be compared with the impact of traditional transportation funding policies on people with low incomes, which is often regressive. For example, low income drivers pay just as much tax on a gallon of gas as high income drivers do even though this tax has a significantly more detrimental effect on the mobility of low income drivers. Another example of current transportation policies that have an adverse effect on people with low incomes are transit policies that are increasingly targeted at developing rail transit options for suburban, middle and upper class commuters. These rail systems may be built at the expense of bus services for lower income neighborhoods.

In addition, people with lower incomes often support tolling and pricing. A recent Federal Highway Administration primer on congestion pricing reports that while low income drivers do not use toll facilities every day, they support having the option to avoid traffic when they need to – for example, to avoid paying a penalty for being late to work, or for picking up a child late from a daycare facility.[138] The primer indicates that on San Diego's I-15 HOT Lanes a high level of support (70 percent) comes from the lowest income users.

FHWA recently prepared a white paper on the equity issues of pricing as it relates to low-income drivers and reported, among other positive conclusions, the following:[139]

Tolling and pricing is also supported by people with low incomes if portions of the revenue are used to pay for transit improvements. These types of subsidies can be targeted at relieving any unfair burden that the tolling or pricing creates. A significant portion of the revenue from the congestion pricing plan that was proposed for downtown New York City, for example, would have been used to pay for transit improvements.[140] The FHWA white paper excerpts portions of New York City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito's blog posting on January 30, 2008:

"So it is with congestion pricing. For months, some suburban elected officials from wealthy areas, as well as a coalition backed primarily by the American Automobile Association and Manhattan garage owners, have tried their best to cloak themselves as guardians of New York's poor and middle-class residents The truth is that just 5 percent of commuters in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx travel to Manhattan by private car. People who drive their cars to work also earn 30 percent more a year than those of us who use mass transit. It is our poor and middle-class families who would benefit from congestion pricing — as the fees charged to drivers would be used to improve the bus and subway system Unlike those who falsely claim to speak for the best interests of my constituents, the commission ought to recognize it would be irresponsible not to pursue a policy that could provide immediate and measurable relief of traffic congestion while improving the air that all of my constituents breathe and the buses and subways that they ride daily."

Furthermore, technology makes it possible for tolling and pricing programs to include protections for low-income individuals. Where tolls are collected electronically, credits or discounts may be provided to low-income drivers through their transponder accounts. A monthly quota of toll credits could be deposited into these accounts or tolls charged to these accounts could be billed at a discounted rate. The New York City congestion pricing bill that was proposed for consideration in the state's legislature included tax credits for low-income individuals for any fees paid in excess of the round-trip fare for a transit trip.

There is also evidence that the net distributional effects of congestion pricing do not adversely affect low-income groups. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments recently evaluated the impact of congestion pricing on the amounts of jobs and/or households accessible to low-income groups (and others) from various traffic analysis zones in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. In each of the three pricing scenarios studied, the pattern of losses and gains were very similar, with no one population group receiving a large share of the benefit and no one population group shouldering a disproportionate share of the losses. The first scenario, which involved pricing of new lanes and all existing HOV lanes in the region, resulted in no losses in accessibility, so no population group experienced losses.[141]

7. Will toll roads divert traffic to other facilities that are less able to deal with it?

According to Fitch Ratings, based on its experience with a variety of toll roads around the world, it is their "best judgment that in most developed countries with high motorization rates, regularly scheduled toll increases that are pegged at or close to inflationary levels will likely have minimal adverse traffic effect." For toll roads with toll rates that have historically not kept pace with inflation, rates can be raised steeply to catch up to inflation without materially affecting demand.[142] Fitch's experience confirms that toll rate increases that are pegged to inflation or some other reasonable indicator, and which are reasonably well phased in to avoid sharp increases, should not cause adverse traffic effects. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that each facility presents unique circumstances and the problem of traffic diversion needs to be evaluated. To the extent traffic diversion is expected to pose a serious problem, then alternative PPP structures, such as shadow tolls or availability payments, could be considered.

The risk of diversion also highlights the benefits of congestion pricing. Appropriately structured congestion pricing may encourage drivers to drive at off-peak hours, when the toll rates are less expensive, rather than to drive on other roads. In urban areas, congestion pricing also provides a congestion-free alternative which actually encourages drivers using alternative routes to use the priced facility instead in order to get the benefits of faster and more predictable travel times. Various studies conducted by FHWA and others have shown that vehicle throughput on freeways drops by 10 percent to 25 percent when traffic flow breaks down, in addition to causing delays to motorists that do get through. This lost throughput can be regained when traffic flow on freeways is managed with pricing so that flow breakdown is prevented. Thus, managing demand on freeways with pricing during peak periods can actually increase freeway vehicle throughput and thereby increase the total volume of traffic that can be served in a priced freeway corridor, with the freeway attracting some traffic from other facilities in the corridor. Additionally, congestion pricing can divert traffic to transit, which provides a net benefit in congestion reduction.

8. Is it fair to toll existing roads? Didn't taxpayers already pay for these roads?

The misperception that tolls on existing roads are a form of "double taxation" is closely linked to the misperception that existing roads are "free." In fact, a huge amount of tax money is currently spent every year on the operation and maintenance of existing highways and bridges. According to USDOT's most recent Conditions and Performance report, American taxpayers spent $36.3 billion in 2004 on system maintenance and services alone, which includes routine and regular expenditures required to keep the highway surface, shoulders, roadsides, structures, and traffic control devices in usable condition.[143] As the Massachusetts Transportation Finance Commission recently argued in its recommendations for building a sustainable transportation financing system "[i]t has long been accepted that there is no such thing as a free lunch; it is time for people to acknowledge that there is no such thing as a freeway either."[144]

Tolling is a more equitable revenue raising mechanism than fuel taxes and is also more effective for managing congestion. As a direct fee paid by the users of a facility, tolls are a more efficient source of revenue than taxes and help ensure that the people who use the facility pay a fair share of the facility's costs. Tolls can also be varied by time of day to reduce congestion. Congestion pricing may mean that users of a facility pay more to use the facility during congested periods than they would have under the traditional fuel tax model, but they can also choose to use the facility during off-peak hours when the costs of the trip are less, or they can choose to use transit. The idea is not simply to raise more revenue, but to inform drivers about the true costs of their trip so they can make better decisions about when and how to travel.

All five of the agreements that USDOT signed with urban partners as part of the Urban Partnership Program included provisions for pricing existing roads or highways. At the state and local level, where important highway and transit decisions are made, the "double taxation" argument is not persuasive. Instead, pricing existing roads is being utilized to manage severe and worsening congestion.

As the traditional funding model struggles to respond to the demand for capital investment in transportation infrastructure, whether for new capacity or for improvements to existing facilities, tolling is providing for an increasingly significant portion of capital highway investments. A 2006 study prepared for FHWA indicates that, "[d]uring the last 10 years, an average of 50 to 75 miles a year of new access-controlled expressways has been constructed as toll roads out of an overall average of 150 to 175 miles of urban expressways opened annually. Toll roads, therefore, have been responsible for 30 to 40 percent of new ‘high end' road mileage over the past decade."[145]

9. Do PPPs limit the public sector's ability to construct competing facilities next to a privately operated toll facility?

In certain jurisdictions, including California and Texas, the legislation authorizing PPPs provides guidance with respect to the construction of new facilities in the vicinity of the privately operated toll facility, but in most jurisdictions the public sector's ability to construct new, competing facilities is negotiated as part of the concession agreement. One way to negotiate this point is to permit the public sector to provide competing facilities as long as the public sector compensates the private sector for any loss of toll revenue that results from the provision of the competing facilities (with exceptions for facilities that were planned at the time the parties entered into the concession agreement). By assuming the risk that it will need to construct competing facilities, the public sector retains the right to construct these facilities and also realizes better value from the concession – if the private partner had to assume this risk the value of the concession, and any related payments made by the private partner, would be reduced.

This is the approach that California took in its PPP legislation, which mandates State flexibility to provide competing roads as long as compensation is provided to the concessionaire (with certain exceptions where compensation is not provided).[146] In Texas, the legislature chose to deal with this risk by mandating a fixed amount of mileage from the PPP facility at which a competing facility can be built by the public sector. Whether mandated by legislation or negotiated in a concession agreement, the key is to ensure that an outcome acceptable to both the public and the private sector is agreed to before the concession commences so that disputes can be avoided or expeditiously resolved during the term of the concession.

It is important to acknowledge that publicly financed toll facilities are often protected through similar provisions in favor of the public operator and its bondholders. In these deals, state transportation agencies have agreed to use their best efforts to avoid creating any competing facility which could have an adverse impact on the economic viability of the tolled facility or its operation.[147] These transactions may include exceptions similar to the exceptions included in a PPP. For example, projects that are required for safety or for maintaining existing capacity, or projects included in long-range transportation plans, may not violate the covenant. Nevertheless, it is clear that incentives to protect a project's cash flow from competing facilities exist whether the project is publicly or privately financed.

10. Do PPP programs frustrate state and local planning processes by allowing the private sector to submit unsolicited proposals?

Unsolicited proposals allow the private sector to initiate the PPP process for a particular project by proposing that a state or local authority procure the project as a PPP. Alternatively, a PPP procurement process can be initiated by the state or local authority soliciting proposals from the private sector. While states have very different attitudes towards unsolicited proposals, the public sector should be comfortable that unsolicited proposals will not frustrate planning processes because the decision whether or not to consider unsolicited proposals is made by the public sector, in its sole discretion. Unsolicited proposals provide an opportunity for public agencies to supplement traditional planning processes with private sector concepts for how best to improve transportation systems.

In some states, such as Texas, unsolicited proposals from the private sector have been an important feature of the PPP program.[148] Other states have been more wary of unsolicited proposals because they can distract resources from projects that are included in the state and local plans and from projects that are of high priority. Some states have legislation that only authorizes the use of PPPs for specific projects. Indiana's PPP legislation, for example, only authorizes PPPs for the ITR concession and the I-69 expansion project. Other states only authorize PPPs that result from solicited proposals, not from unsolicited proposals. The North Carolina Turnpike Authority can solicit proposals, but is not authorized to accept unsolicited proposals. In Georgia , the first four PPP projects procured by the Georgia Department of Transportation were the result of unsolicited proposals, but the State Transportation Board recently voted to stop accepting unsolicited proposals and begin soliciting proposals for projects that Georgia wants to prioritize.

Still other states deal with the challenges presented by unsolicited proposals by limiting the types of projects that they might be submitted for. The Florida Department of Transportation ("FDOT") is authorized to accept unsolicited proposals, but only for projects that have legislative approval, as evidenced by prior inclusion of the project in FDOT's work program. California allows unsolicited proposals, but only authorizes two PPP projects in northern California and two PPP projects in southern California and each of the projects must be primarily for good movement and may not rely on tolls charged to noncommercial vehicles.

Each state considering PPPs should decide whether it wants to allow unsolicited proposals or not. From a national perspective, the experiences of other states will help inform states going forward as to what is the best practice with respect to unsolicited proposals.

11. Is it unfair to future generations of toll payers for a public authority to maximize the value of the upfront payment it gets from a concessionaire?

Some argue that it is unfair to leverage toll facilities to provide short-term benefits while future generations of drivers are left to pick up the tab. Ultimately, the veracity of this argument depends on how the proceeds of the PPP are used by the public authority. Like any public revenues, concession payments can be used for short-term benefits, but they can also be used for sound investments that provide benefits for future generations. Indiana used the proceeds of the Indiana Toll Road concession to fully fund a 10-year transportation work program. Not only does this help ensure that the next generation in Indiana will enjoy the benefits of a robust transportation system, including all of the indirect economic benefits provided thereby[149], but also it helps ensure that the next generation in Indiana will not face transportation funding shortfalls that slow project delivery, expose projects to increased costs, and stifle the State's ability to compete in the global economy.

A large percentage of the money raised by Chicago in the Chicago Skyway concession was used to fund a long-term reserve account, which is earning interest and will not be used in the short-term. The City's use of proceeds improved its credit ratings[150] which makes it easier and less expensive to fund important projects – savings that will benefit future generations at least as much as they benefit the current generation, if not more. The direct and indirect benefits that residents of Indiana and Chicago will receive from these concessions in future years (and the long-term benefits of other, similar PPPs) should not be lightly discounted.

This argument also fails to take into account the inequities of the current transportation funding model in which the public sector collects and spends taxes on a "pay as you go" basis. In this model, current taxpayers pay for a facility's upfront capital costs while future generations enjoy the benefits without paying any share of the capital costs. With toll facilities, anyone paying to use the facility, now or in the future, is doing so because the benefits of that use outweigh the costs, and as long as increases in toll rates are subject to an equitable cap, such as inflation, there should be no inter-generational inequities.

12. Will private operation of portions of the Nation's transportation network disrupt the integrity of the network as a whole?

Some have argued that interstate traffic will be disrupted by the decentralized operations of multiple private concessionaires. By specifying detailed design, construction and operation standards which the concessionaire must achieve, concession agreements can ensure that services are provided using the same standards and specifications that apply to traditional highway projects. (In fact, PPP agreements give the public sector the opportunity to require that private operators actually design, build and operate the facility using more stringent standards and specifications than might otherwise apply.) The Georgia Department of Transportation indicated with respect to its PPP program that "roads constructed under [concession] contracts will be designed and built to GDOT approved design standards and specifications comparable to other projects in the state. Although there may be new transportation choices for drivers such as managed lanes, the roads will be appropriately signed, user friendly, and easy to navigate."[151]

The argument that PPPs will somehow compromise the integrity of the Nation's transportation networks also fails to take into account how dispersed operations are on our current transportation facilities, which are owned and operated by 50 different states (or political subdivisions of states). Without credible evidence that private operation of transportation facilities is more detrimental to the integrity of the Nation's transportation system than operation by state or local authorities, the suggestion that private operators degrade the connectivity of the system is unwarranted.

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