Transit P3s On Track

Two potential public-private partnership transit projects appear closer to leaving the station, after several delays. Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) recently held a public hearing on the Eagle P3 project and is poised to issue a request for proposals to three prequalified/shortlisted teams on September 30th with proposals anticipated in March 2010. Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) is on an accelerated schedule for its stimulus-revamped Oakland Airport Connector project, with proposals due in late September and contract award slated for December.

The Federal Transit Administration selected both projects to participate in the Public-Private Partnership Pilot Program or Penta P, a program authorized by SAFETEA-LU to demonstrate the pros and cons of P3s for certain new FTA-funded fixed guideway capital projects. FTA officially launched the program in January 2007, focusing on projects that utilize procurement methods that integrate risk-sharing and accelerate project delivery.

FTA recognized the inherent obstacles in transit P3s in its 2007 Report to Congress on the Costs, Benefits, and Efficiencies of Public-Private Partnerships for Fixed Guideway Capital Projects, emphasizing that private partners for transit projects have been reluctant to provide long-term equity investment or assume ridership or revenue risk. Overcoming the challenges to private sector equity investment and assumption of revenue risk for transit projects will be a gradual process, even with Penta P support. Denver’s Eagle P3 project, to be delivered as an availability payment concession, calls for the concessionaire to finance the project, although the RTD will assume the farebox risk. While BART’s initial plans for the Oakland Airport Connector called for the private sector to provide financing and share in the farebox risk, BART has since switched gears; the contractor will now design, build, operate and maintain the project, but BART will fund the project itself, using a combination of traditional funding sources and an injection of stimulus funds.

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