Virginia Governor pledges P3 reforms

Terry McAuliffe will offer legislation in the upcoming General Assembly session on January 14, aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in the P3 procurement process.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe will introduce legislation to reform the public-private partnership (PPP; P3) procurement process by aiming to increase transparency, minimise risk for taxpayers and increase accountability, according to a recent statement.

The legislation, sponsored by House Delegate and Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Chris Jones, calls for a P3 steering committee comprising staff from the House and Senate transportation committees to determine whether a project qualifies as a P3. Once the determination has been made, the Secretary of Transportation will have to sign a document confirming a project’s suitability to be procured as a P3.

The draft legislation will also establish new procedures for high-risk projects in order to shield taxpayers from unexpected liabilities, according to the statement, which did not however provide further details.

“The 95 Express Lanes project is a model of how P3 projects should be done,” McAuliffe said, referring to the completion of a major highway project that will open to traffic on December 14.

“I want to congratulate Transurban and thank them for completing this project early and on budget,” McAuliffe said in the statement that announced both the opening of the facility and the introduction of the new legislation.

The draft legislation is one more step Virginia’s Governor has taken in reforming the P3 process in the Commonwealth, which he has promised to do since assuming office in January 2014.

In April, he signed House Bill 2 into law which requires the Commonwealth Transportation Board to work with local authorities in prioritising projects based on such criteria as congestion mitigation, economic development, safety, mobility and environmental concerns.

In a September interview with Infrastructure Investor, Aubrey Layne, the Commonwealth’s current Secretary of Transportation and a McAuliffe appointee, had described House Bill 2 as a way of “depoliticizing this [P3] process so that our Department of Transportation knows that regardless of who or what party is in office, we have a project list that has been based on objective criteria.”

McAuliffe’s announcement was well received by political and business leaders in the Commonwealth.

“I applaud the Governor for working diligently with the private sector to support the P3 programme by restoring the public trust and improving public stewardship of transportation dollars,” Senator Walter Stosch and Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a separate statement. “These reforms will focus future efforts on the original intent of the PPTA [Public-Private Transportation Act] – transferring risk to the private sector and leveraging taxpayer funds.”

Photo courtesy of VDOT.