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International Construction Law Review

US transportation PPPs: background, Emerging trends and the impacts of COVID-19

Hannah Higgins*

Investor Relations Manager, Transurban
In recent decades Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) have become a popular mechanism in the delivery and operation of global infrastructure, including in the transportation sector. However, in the US there have been relatively few examples of transportation PPP. Key reasons for slow adoption have included the availability of low-cost funding to the US public sector, unsupportive bureaucratic systems and some high-profile failures of the model. The tide may be about to turn, however, with enabling systems and legislation increasingly being introduced, the impacts of Covid-19 putting pressure on public balance sheets and the availability of private capital.


Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) have emerged over the last few decades as an important tool in the government procurement toolbelt. This form of agreement has been embraced by many governments around the world as a way to mobilise private sector financing and expertise to deliver key infrastructure projects, including in the transport sector, that would traditionally have been delivered by the public sector. Some of the reported reasons for using PPPs include value for money, greater budget certainty and access to increased innovation, while critics claim that they do not deliver on these promises and result in outcomes that are against the public interest.
Many countries have embraced PPPs while others have remained cautious. The likelihood that a country will adopt the model is based on a complex set of interconnected factors that include policy, regulatory and legal frameworks, the existence of supporting institutions, the level of public debt (including access to capital and credit markets), the investment needs in infrastructure and the general societal acceptance of privatisation.1 A 2015 study found that between 1990 and 2013 there were more than 1,600 PPP contracts were signed across Europe, representing
Pt 1] US Transportation PPPs: Background, Emerging Trends and Covid-19


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