Speeding up

Dale Bonner, Secretary of California’s Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, is eyeing speed and consistency in building out the state’s PPP programme. He recently hired some advisors to help him deliver on this vision.

Industry participants waiting on the sidelines of California’s market for public-private partnerships may get a chance to step into the playing field sooner than they expected.

Dale Bonner

The state recently appointed Sperry Capital, a California-based financial advisory firm, to help the California Department of Transportation pursue PPPs. Next up: Dale Bonner, secretary of the state’s Business, Transportation and Housing Agency told InfrastructureInvestor that he wants to have Sperry and its subcontractors KPMG and Great Pacific Securities help the state build out the PPP programme by “ensuring some level of consistency in our approach”.

“And then we are expecting along the way to try to move to … specific opportunities that will arise,” he added.

These could include the replacement for the southern access road to the Golden Gate Bridge, known as Doyle Drive. Bonner said a decision is imminent on whether that project will be pursued as a PPP. He also views a PPP to replace the Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach as the “most likely to emerge in 2010 because the environmental work is far along”.

Environmental reviews are another area where Bonner hopes to speed up the PPP process. The state has one of the most exacting environmental review processes in the US for public works projects. Bonner said one of his priorities will be to speed up the environmental review process so projects can get underway more quickly.

“The key is going to be to not take the business-as-usual approach of spending several years of doing the environmental waiting and then [wait] for the inevitable lawsuit and spend a couple years more to fight that,” he said.

If California delivers on these promises, the PPP investment opportunities could well come sooner than anyone expected. “There continues to be a very strong interest in investing in California and I think the goal is to make sure that we are going to have a transaction process that is predictable, consistent, and lends itself to a pipeline [of projects],” Bonner added.