Georgia to seek bidders for second PPP

The state will look for a private partner to design, construct and ultimately operate a new train and bus terminal in downtown Atlanta. A third PPP for the management of the state’s highway rest stops will follow soon.

The Georgia Department of Transportation will seek a private partner to build a new train and bus terminal in downtown Atlanta, setting in motion the state’s second public-private partnership to come to market this year.

The goal is to create a regional transit centre, akin to New York’s Grand Central Terminal, that will serve as a one-stop connection point for various modes of transportation. City buses and subway lines, as well as inter-state buses, rail and high-speed rail would pick up and drop off passengers from the so-called Multi-Modal Passenger Terminal, or MMPT.

“This transportation centre will be the cornerstone of statewide transit services and connecting the high speed rail lines throughout the Southeast,” Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Vance Smith said in a statement.

The department said on its website that “many variables” currently “prevent a final cost from being determined”. However, by tendering the project as a public-private partnership (PPP), the state hopes to bolster limited state and federal dollars with private capital.

The private development partner will be asked to create a master development plan for the MMPT and execute the plan through multiple phases. The plan will include identification of the appropriate land use, design and construction of the facility and its eventual long-term operation.

“We are at the beginning of a project that will certainly take several years to fully complete,” Smith added in the statement.

The state hopes to include commercial, retail and housing development as part of the MMPT’s facilities, opening the door for a real estate developer to potentially help deliver some of these offerings.

Crystal Paulk-Buchanan, a spokesperson for the department, said interested investors should expect to see a request for qualifications for the project in 60 days.

She added that a third PPP – a potential long-term lease and management contract for rest stops and welcome centres along the state’s federal highway – will come to market next. The state will formally announce its intent to qualify bidders for that PPP on Friday, she said.

A fourth PPP to build telecommunications towers on government land along the state highways will proceed that. Paulk-Buchanan said the state does not yet have a timetable on when it will announce its intent to go forward with the telecommunications procurement.

The state’s first PPP, the $2.3 billion West by Northwest highway improvement, began procurement in March. Three teams are now in the process of bidding for the project, which will add about 40 miles of tolled lanes to several highways in Atlanta’s West and Northwest suburbs.