AECOM to advise Washington State on PPPs

AECOM, Nossaman and KPMG will prepare a report on potential transportation public-private partnerships, including a freeway extension project that is facing a $2bn shortfall. Washington State has been estimated to have statewide infrastructure investment needs of up to $200bn over the next 20 years.

The Washington State Joint Transportation Committee has selected engineering firm AECOM, law firm Nossaman and consultancy KPMG to produce a report on potential public-private partnerships (PPPs) for transportation projects.

The aim of the PPP plan is to evaluate “alternative financing approaches” to meet daunting statewide infrastructure investment needs, estimated at $175 billion to $200 billion over the next two decades, according to the request for proposals (RFP) that the Joint Transportation Committee issued in May.

According to the RFP, the winning consultants will devise a plan that educates state legislators about PPPs, creates a screening tool to determine if projects are suitable for PPPs, and identifies “statutory, constitutional, financial, institutional, political or other barriers” to implementing projects as PPPs.

The plan will focus on five specific roads projects, which include the extension of the SR-167 Tacoma freeway and the Columbia River Crossing linking Washington State to neighbouring Oregon. The consultants’ report will create a “conceptual implementation plan” without fully developing all information needed to determine if the projects are ultimately PPP-suitable, according to the RFP.

The five projects included in the scope of the report are at different stages of development. The Columbia River Crossing has already spent $127 million over the past six years, and Oregon and Washington could each be expected to contribute an additional $450 million in the future, according to the project website.

Other projects could potentially be stalled by budget shortfalls. The SR-167 freeway extension has received environmental approvals, and the state is looking to “continue right-of-way acquisition, engineering, and design as funding allows”, but the project is facing a $2 billion funding shortfall, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation website.

Other potential PPPs include the construction of a bypass in Monroe, Washington, for which the state has completed preliminary designs, but does not have funding, and the I5/SR 509 corridor improvement project, which is facing a funding shortfall of $1.2 billion.

The Joint Transportation Committee received 21 letters of intent and 10 bids for the consulting services contract, according to a spokesperson for the Committee.

Washington State is one of several US states that has recently taken steps toward using various PPP models for transportation projects. Recently, Texas approved legislation that allows the state’s Department of Transportation to use PPPs for 11 projects, while the Illinois legislature passed a law, yet to be signed by Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, that would allow the state broad authority to use PPPs for transportation projects.

And earlier this year, Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican, approved a $6.8 billion transportation budget that enables the Ohio Department of Transportation to pursue PPPs. Consultancy Halcrow Group is undertaking preliminary studies to assess which projects in Ohio might be suitable for PPPs.