Seattle rail and bus agency exploring PPPs

Sound Transit has brought on KPMG to assess which capital projects are suitable for the model.

Sound Transit, a public agency serving the Seattle area in the US, is considering PPP opportunities, with an evaluation of such prospects set to be reviewed this quarter.

The agency, which has a $1.6 billion budget and operates light rail, commuter rail and buses in Seattle’s metropolitan region, is exploring whether PPPs can benefit implementation of its capital plan. KPMG, a Dutch consultancy, was brought on last month to lead the evaluation, with London-based Ernst & Young and Ontario’s Hatch also hired as advisors.

The evaluation will take place in two stages. First, KPMG will review all projects in Sound Transit’s capital plan – around 50 projects – and determine which may be suitable for a PPP. Once candidate projects are identified, the firms will undertake a deeper review of these projects to assess the benefits and difficulties of implementing a PPP.

“There is not a lot of track record about agencies undergoing thorough, agency-wide P3 evaluations,” said Brian McCartan, Sound Transit’s chief financial officer, at a meeting last month. “So, there is definitely some learning as we are going here.”

The agency expects to have candidate projects identified by the end of the summer. If there are promising projects, they are likely to go to the market within a year.