PPPs in Pennsylvania: ‘Our time has come’

Republican Representative Richard Geist believes his measure to enable PPPs in the Keystone State will finally be successful. It will be ‘at the fulcrum’ of a package of measures he plans to introduce soon as a way to tackle the state’s transportation funding crisis.

A key proponent of private investment in Pennsylvania’s infrastructure said Friday he feels confident the state will finally pass a bill enabling public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects.

“I think our time has come,” said Republican Representative Richard Geist, who has introduced similar legislation three times before with no success.

I think our time has come

Richard Geist

This time, though, Geist believes he will be successful because he’s hearing “good stuff, for a change” from his fellow lawmakers in regard to the measure.

And, “as a political force,” he doesn’t sense strong enough opposition from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to trounce the bill a fourth time.

A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission did not return a request for comment.

Richard Geist

Geist credits these political developments to the fact that Pennsylvania’s transportation financing problems are only getting worse: the state now needs an additional $3.5 billion a year to meet its transportation needs. And even $3.5 billion, cautioned Geist, may not be enough: “that just rebuilds bridges.”

Last year, the Federal Highway Administration ranked Pennsylvania as the state with the highest number of deficient bridges: 9,744. “The bridge problem is not getting better. We have really old bridges in Pennsylvania and a lot of those are way past their life capacity,” Geist said.

Public-private partnerships (PPPs), Geist said, will be “at the fulcrum” of a package of measures he hopes to introduce over the next 30 days to help Pennsylvania address its transportation funding deficit.

Other measures will include a proposal that would allow the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to award design-build contracts for infrastructure projects, a proposal to toll a 50 mile stretch of the Interstate 95 highway in Pennsylvania and a pilot programme to contract out the maintenance of Pennsylvania’s highways to the private sector.

Geist also said he will introduce a bill to streamline the permitting process for highway projects.

And while the PPP bill will initially only allow PPPs for infrastructure in the beginning, he hopes that eventually the state will allow PPPs also for schools, sewer systems and other critical infrastructure assets.

“The impetus is to fix all of Pennsylvania,” he added.