The Federal Transit Administration introduced a proposed rulemaking to increase the use of public-private partnerships in public transportation projects, partly as a way to generate new revenues for transit investments, and said it is
taking public comments through Sept. 29.
July 31 Federal Register notice, the agency said it is offering "new, experimental procedures to encourage increased project management flexibility, more innovation in project funding, improved efficiency, timely project implementation and new project revenue streams."
The FTA in that notice also cited authorization under the 2015 Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act for it to create "an expedited project delivery program for capital investment projects that requires projects be supported, at least in part, by public-private partnerships."
The agency said its proposed "private investment project procedures" for public transit capital projects "will help the federal government develop more effective approaches to spurring private participation and investment in areas such as project planning, development, finance, design, construction, maintenance and operations."
It also said recipients of federal funding for such projects would be allowed to "identify specific FTA regulations, practices, procedures or guidance documents that may be an impediment to the use of a public-private partnership or private investment in that project."
"As more public transportation project sponsors find willing and able private partners, we must ensure that federal regulations or procedures do not stifle innovation," said FTA Executive Director Matthew Welbes. He said the proposed new rule "will help us maintain procedures that are truly beneficial while allowing for discretion to waive those that simply impede good projects."
Although Congress in the FAST Act authorized this effort, it also fits it with President Trump's efforts to leverage federal infrastructure dollars into greater non-federal investment in transportation projects, including from private investors.
"One of the Trump administration's priorities is to allow private-sector resources and expertise to help rebuild America's infrastructure," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. "This proposal will help us better understand the ways that unnecessary procedures may get in the way of building the best projects possible at the lowest cost to the public."
Under the proposal, recipients of federal assistance could request modification or waiver of specific FTA requirements "if the recipient demonstrates that those requirements discourage the use of public-private partnerships." The FTA administrator would then have discretion to grant a modification or waiver if certain criteria are met.
However, it said the new procedures "could not be used to waive any requirement under the National Environmental Policy Act or any other provision of federal statute."
Photo / FTA press release.
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