DC’s P3 Office Hits the Ground Running

November 4, 2016

In a continuation of one of the latest trends in transportation, D.C. public agencies that are interested in working with the private sector now have a dedicated, full-time office to help navigate the process – D.C.’s Office of Public-Private Partnerships (OP3).

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser first introduced legislation in 2014 (while she was on the city council) that eventually went on to create the OP3 in November of 2015. The office’s main mission is to build collaborations between the private sector and D.C. government. In turn, these groups will complete major infrastructure projects and other programs through long-term, performance-based partnerships.

Just last week, Mayor Bowser and OP3 hosted DC Builds!, a forum that brought together public officials, potential partners, policy experts (including Eno President and CEO, Robert Puentes), and residents to discuss the state of the District’s infrastructure. While the forum focused mainly on social infrastructure rather than transportation, it allowed attendees to meet OP3 and other key agencies; learn about the P3 model and procurement processes; and discover what initial projects the District intends to procure.

The Eno Center for Transportation is paying particular attention to D.C.’s new OP3 office.

In 2012, Eno organized a Working Group, under the direction of former Secretaries of Transportation Mary Peters and Norm Mineta, made up of leading P3 experts from the private, public, and non-profit sectors. The group studied successful and less successful P3 experiences in the U.S. to understand existing barriers and how to overcome them. Through this work, Eno uncovered keys to successful public private partnerships, and published the findings in the report, Partnership Financing: Improving Transportation Infrastructure Through Public Private Partnerships.

When executed well, P3 projects allow both sides of the partnership to benefit. The public gets a transportation facility built, operated, and maintained to contractually defined standards by a private firm or consortium, often earlier than scheduled. The private partner shares the risk associated with a large public infrastructure project, and costs can be reduced through innovative private sector solutions. When the project is complete, the private sector maintains ownership of the asset but also manages the operation and maintenance through the life of the contract. When the contract ends, the project is handed back to the sponsoring public organization in good condition.

To help states and localities tackle the challenge of P3s, in July of 2015 Eno granted P3 Technical Assistance Awards to three localities across the country – Broward County, Florida; the MTC in San Francisco; and the D.C. Mayor’s Office. The program – funded by the Surdna Foundation – was intended for state and local governments that had the necessary interest and regulatory environment to pursue P3s, but did not have the experience within their transportation agency. The program included a one-day summit designed to assist public agencies in better understanding the P3 development process and to build technical capacity among agencies’ professional staff.

D.C’s own P3 summit took place on December 9, 2015 – just one month after the city created OP3. The invitation-only event included professionals from various departments within the Mayor’s Office and District Department of Transportation. The discussion at the summit revolved around proper internal processes for P3 offices and how to protect the public interest and hold private sector companies accountable for the work they are undertaking. (Ed. Note: A full summary of the event can be found here)

While the office is young, it is already making exciting strides. At the DC Builds! Symposium, the OP3 and the District released a pipeline of initial projects that will be procured and announced on November 28 of this year. This marks the launch of a 30-day period during which unsolicited proposals for social infrastructure projects will be accepted. Those interested can learn more about the project pipeline here: op3.dc.gov/pipeline

As P3 projects continue to gain popularity, Eno will remain a part of the dialogue to help states and local governments thoughtfully navigate the complex world of P3s.

For additional information about Eno’s work in P3s, please contact Emily Han at ehan@enotrans.org


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