Victor Mendez, Acting Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation, participated this morning in a Bloomberg Government panel entitled “America on the Move: Investing in U.S. Infrastructure.” In a wide-ranging discussion, he addressed the issue of long-term funding for U.S. infrastructure.

He commented that there is a need for many funding options and we need the private sector in the mix. The TIFIA program has been successful, financing 40 or so projects so far with the private sector, many of them toll roads.  Some of the projects are very long term, up to 50 years.

Mendez was asked specifically about the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s panel on public-private partnerships and what USDOT thinks about P3s. He repeated that the private sector has to be engaged, as we do not have enough public sector funding to do what we need to for U.S. infrastructure, and the Department supports P3s.  He commented that we have not figured out completely how to advance P3s and bring the private sector to the table, and we need to keep working on it. He spoke directly to the private sector, saying that “your ideas are critical.”  He said that through TIFIA, successful loans have been made, but getting through the negotiations can be onerous, with every deal different, and some of them very complex.  Getting the negotiations done in a more streamlined fashion will be important for all players.

He also talked about the importance of streamlining the permitting process for infrastructure.  He noted that while much of the discussion about infrastructure is focused on funding, there are other policy areas, like the permitting process, to be addressed.