To better understand the severity of America’s aging infrastructure, take a look at the issues California faced in February alone.
In Northern California, the Orville Dam crisis forced the evacuation of more than 180,000 residents amid fears that the emergency spillway could collapse. Then, in San Jose, a massive flood not only forced 14,000 people to evacuate the city, a damaged levee led to the temporary closure of the 101 freeway. Separately, Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge along Highway 1 is cracked and sunk, causing Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to be cut off from the rest of the state.
Meanwhile, in Southern California, a 30-foot sinkhole swallowed two cars in Studio City, and a separate roadway collapse in San Bernardino County sent a fire truck crashing off the edge of the 15 freeway.
Improvements to roads, bridges, water systems, airports, and other infrastructure are much needed across the United States. While securing adequate funding to complete the necessary improvements might seem like a pipe dream, other nations have successfully adopted alternative financing methods that could also provide viable solutions in America.
Federal, state, and local governments throughout the United States could leverage private investments to finance, build, and operate numerous publicly owned assets within their respective jurisdictions. In fact, public-private partnerships – or P3s – have been a successful financing arrangement for numerous infrastructure projects around the world.
P3s are gaining traction in the United States. For instance, a $2.3 billion joint effort between Kentucky and Indiana was just completed in December. The project, which utilized a P3 arrangement to finance construction of one of its new bridges, was completed ahead of the original schedule and under budget.
Generally, cost and schedule certainty are among the primary benefits of implementing P3s as a procurement method for complex infrastructure projects. Another important benefit of such partnerships is the long-term view, as the private owner-builder of the asset – a bridge, for example – is incentivized to maintain the physical asset over the life of the contract, which is typically 30 years. Otherwise, if the asset crumbles or is defective, the owner doesn’t recoup its investment. This also shields the asset from the volatility of annual public works budgets being cut, which leads to deferred maintenance.
In Los Angeles, P3s are being used to truly transform Los Angeles International Airport. An automated people mover system, which will connect the airport’s central terminal area with a new consolidated rental car facility, is the centerpiece of a $14 billion modernization program. After evaluating several different delivery methods, airport officials determined P3s are best suited to deliver both the people mover and rental car facility.
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