Right takes charge of Build America centre

Little more than a year after President Obama created BATIC, new director Andrew Right said he’s ready to do his part “to get America’s infrastructure back on track”.

Under the leadership of newly appointed director Andrew Right, an Obama administration initiative within the US Department of Transportation plans to work with state and municipal transportation agencies to encourage public-private partnerships (PPPs; P3s) and the use of private finance in public infrastructure projects.

While the Build America Transportation Investment Center (BATIC) has a multifold mission, Right said during an exclusive interview with Infrastructure Investor that lining up private dollars with public projects will be “critical” to achieving that mission.  

BATIC, Right explained, serves as a single point of contact and coordination for states, municipalities and project sponsors looking to utilise federal transportation expertise, apply for federal credit programmes, or explore ways to access private capital through public-private partnerships (PPPs; P3s). 

“The centre addresses the procedural, permitting and financial barriers to increased infrastructure investment and development by intervening earlier in project lifecycles, actively helping sponsors navigate and accelerate the often-complex federal permitting and procedural requirements, centralising project coordination and cultivating P3s. We think BATIC drives efficiencies to create further financing optionality for projects in a shorter timeframe, accelerating repair of critical US infrastructure.” 

In his new role, which was officially announced last week by US DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, Right said he plans to leverage his private sector experience, which includes a stint working with the Goldman Sachs infrastructure fund team, to bridge a gap between the public and private sides. 

“We're trying to create a process here within DOT that actually addresses some of the concerns that the private sector had in getting projects funded and financed, especially from a P3 angle or the utilisation of federal credit programmes.”

Explaining that process in a nutshell, Right said that when a project comes to the centre, it undergoes an assessment before being assigned a project development lead (PDL) who will work with sponsors to figure out everything that needs to be done in order for the project to be eligible for federal funding or P3 utilisation. The centre then provides sponsors with a project requirement plan that outlines exactly what they're up against.

In its first year of operations, BATIC facilitated $18 billion in transportation investment, according to US DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, who said in July that the department hopes to see that number grow as time goes on. While Right has every intention of fulfilling that directive, he added that when it comes to measuring success, he's out to measure more than just “dollars out the door”. 

“It's tough to have a goal for deploying capital because that sometimes makes you not deploy it in the most rational way. We're trying to put capital into the worthy projects that meet the criteria so there's no hard number to be successful,” Right said. “If we're seeing better projects and we're seeing lots of projects, that's a marker for success. If they're getting through faster and we feel like they're better ready for the credit programme, that's a marker for success.”

Right said that his best advice for infrastructure investors looking to participate in projects is to come to the centre early on in the process.

“Tell us what you're looking to do, we're more than willing to facilitate anything we can, and the earlier we know about something the more helpful we can be. We may not be able to anything too early because it's a fine line. But we encourage people to do that.”