Governors discuss public-private partnerships to advance infrastructure projects

Six governors joined other state officials and private-sector stakeholders for a virtual summit to explore partnerships to finance and maintain vital infrastructure in the midst of COVID-19.

The National Governors Association (NGA) held a virtual summit this week to discuss ways to finance the nation’s infrastructure projects. Six governors joined other state officials and private-sector stakeholders to explore partnerships to finance and maintain vital infrastructure in the midst of COVID-19.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam joined Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan during the virtual meeting that served as the fourth regional stakeholder summit for Hogan’s NGA Chair’s Initiative, Infrastructure: Foundation for Success.

“Governors of both parties are calling for large-scale federal investments in our nation’s traditional infrastructure systems, including not only roads, bridges, transit, and aviation systems, but also substantial investment in our energy, water, broadband, and cybersecurity infrastructure,” Hogan said in a release.

He added, “This investment will put people back to work immediately and improve our long-term economic recovery by ensuring that America has the best infrastructure in the world to support businesses and economic growth.”

During the stakeholder summit, governors led a pair of panel discussions on leveraging private sector investments and how governors can help ensure that their states have access to the full range of infrastructure financing options.

As reported by Transportation Today, much of the focus was on public-private partnerships (P3s) and the possibility of expanding their role in the sector. In particular, Ducey led a panel that focused on maximizing returns, citing examples of successful P3s in his own state, including the largest highway project in Arizona’s history: the South Mountain Freeway project.

Completed last year, that project finished three years ahead of schedule and saved Arizona $100 million.

P3s were found to have a similar positive effect in Virginia, aiding projects on I-66, I-95 and I-395, as well as rail projects like the American Legion Bridge over the Potomac River. Northam was reported saying the state has relied heavily on its relationship with the private sector to move forward. To continue that momentum, he noted that states need to think outside the box, take advantage of federal aid and innovate in transportation investment.

On a second panel Bullock, Gordon; IFM Investors Executive Director Tom Osborne, and Macquarie Managing Director David Agnew discussed tailoring projects to states’ specific needs.

Bullock noted that sustained investments are needed in infrastructure, coupled with cooperation between the government and private interests. That said, projects like a toll road across I-90 in rural Montana might be significantly less effective than in other, more populous states.

“We have to be thinking beyond the traditional,” Bullock said. “Far too often when we think of public-private partnerships, we just think in terms of roads.”