As part of a larger package aimed at building private infrastructure investment, President Obama on Thursday unveiled the Build America Transportation Investment Center, a “one-stop shop for state and local governments” seeking guidance on developing public-private partnerships for transportation projects.
“First-class infrastructure attracts investment, and it creates first-class jobs,” Obama said in announcing the Center’s creation during a visit to the Port of Wilmington, Del. The I- 495 bridge across the Christina River, which was closed in June after engineers discovered it was structurally unsound, served as the backdrop for the public appearance.
The new center will provide a “navigator service,” allowing experts to provide hands-on support to the public and private sector to identify and execute successful P3s and share best practices from states that are leading the way on private investment, according to a fact sheet released by the White House.
The Department of Transportation, which will run the center, will encourage the use of existing DOT resources – including the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program, private activity bonds and the railroad rehabilitation and improvement financing program – that can improve the prospects for a P3 to become viable.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx expressed his hope that local and state leaders would use the new resources provided by the investment center. “We have a huge opportunity in front of us if we just seize it,” Foxx said. The White House noted that the top six states for P3s command two-thirds of the value of P3s in the U.S. and twenty states have not P3s for any transportation infrastructure.
“None of the steps we are taking should be seen as a substitute for adequate public financing, because there isn’t a substitute for that,” Foxx told reporters in a conference call, reported the New York Times.
The center grows out of a presidential memorandum launching the Build America Investment Initiative and charges Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew with overseeing a task force aimed at reducing barriers to private investment in municipal water, ports, harbors, broadband and the electric grid infrastructure, reported the Washington Post.