Policy Position Statement on Public-Private Partnerships for Transportation Projects

Background

It has long been noted that Pennsylvania's roads and bridges are among the worst in the nation. Between the vast amount of miles under state control, the unique challenges of terrain and climate, the overall age of our infrastructure and the massive projected funding gap just to maintain our existing infrastructure, Pennsylvania must employ new measures in order to adequately address current and future transportation needs. Without doubt, one of those new measures is the promotion of public-private partnerships, or P3's.

In previous position statements and, most recently, in a 25-year vision for transportation, The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry has expressed its support for the concept of P3's. Now, more than ever, these types of partnerships are essential if Pennsylvania is to maintain the safety and viability of its transportation network, foster innovation around transportation improvement projects and ensure its overall future economic health.

Currently, legislation is being considered that would enable Public-Private Partnerships throughout Pennsylvania by establishing guidelines for the contractual relationships of such transactions. The legislation, House Bill 3/Senate Bill 344, applies to all areas of Pennsylvania's transportation network including roads, bridges and other infrastructure such as ports, airports, transit systems and parking facilities. The legislation would maintain public ownership of these critical projects, while contracting with a private entity to develop, construct, manage, operate and/or finance a given project.

While the advantages in joining 28 other states that have already enacted such legislation are clear, a recent amendment to House Bill 3 attaching the onerous and out-dated practice of prevailing wage to any and all projects is cause for some concern and may minimize the benefit P3's could provide to the Commonwealth. With the need at a premium and the funding simply not available to cover it, it is critical that we work toward the lowest-cost, most reasonable solutions possible and, to that end, we believe it would be best to remove the prevailing wage requirement from the legislative language. [We understand that most, if not all, of the P3 projects would fall under current prevailing wage rules due to the involvement of public money, but we will continue to fight this practice wherever it is noted and are, therefore, compelled to do so in this instance, as well.]

Policy Position

The Board of Directors of The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry reiterates its long- standing support for Public-Private Partnerships and encourages quick action on House Bill 3 (or a bill advancing a similar concept). While we remain concerned about including the prevailing wage mandate in the bill and would prefer it be struck, we do not believe that alone should stand in the way of passage given the critical nature of our statewide transportation challenges. The sooner we can advance P3's in Pennsylvania, the better off we will all be in realizing improved transportation safety, an improved transportation network and a more business-friendly environment throughout all of the Commonwealth.

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