By Melanie Condon

It was standing room only on Tuesday, when state Representative Terri Austin (D-Ind.) participated in a roundtable discussion with the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee special Panel on Public-Private Partnerships (P3)

Indiana Representative Terri AustinThe panel was created less than a month ago in response to interest from the public in finding innovative ways to fund infrastructure projects. Austin was asked to speak with the new panel in D.C. to discuss her experiences with transportation P3 projects. Austin was previously the co-chair of NCSL’s Task Force on Public Private Partnerships in Transportation, and served as the vice-chair for NCSL’s Transportation Committee. Austin also previously served as chairman of the House Transportation Committee in the Indiana General Assembly.

Austin discussed her experience with P3 projects during an interview with Mick Bullock, director of public affairs for NCSL's Washington office.

NCSL is encouraged and pleased that the first roundtable of the new six-month panel involved a state legislator. Representative John Duncan (R-Tenn.), chairman of the panel, introduced Austin by saying he has “a great respect for state legislators” and all they do for the public. In fact, Duncan’s sister, Becky Duncan Massey, serves in the Tennessee Senate.

Austin has been an advocate for transportation infrastructure funding in Indiana and spoke to the roundtable about the Indiana Toll Road, which the state of Indiana funded through a P3 agreement beginning in 2006. While Austin shared her positive thoughts and experiences with P3s, she also noted that they are not a perfect fit for every infrastructure project and you “cannot go around chasing P3 projects.”

She also shared with the bi-partisan panel her experience in crafting NCSL’s Public-Private Partnerships for Transportation Toolkit, which was updated Feb. 10. The toolkit provides legislators, staff and private industry with the facts and figures on how different states are handling the P3 model in the funding and financing of transportation infrastructure projects across the country.

P3s are contractual agreements between public and private sector entities that allow for the delivery of a facility or service for public use. In the past few years the use of P3 agreements has been growing in the United States as fiscal uncertainty and the lack of transportation revenues have prompted states to leverage existing resources. In fact, as of February 2014, 33 states and Puerto Rico have laws authorizing transportation P3s.

Representative Austin was joined on the roundtable by Greg Kelly, Global Chief Operating Officer at Parsons Brickerhoff and Jennifer Aument, Group General Manager North America Transurban.

NCSL hopes to continue engagement with the members and staff of the Panel on Public-Private Partnerships as they work to educate Congress and the public on innovative financing mechanisms for infrastructure projects.

Melanie Condon is a NCSL policy associate with the Natural Resources and Infrastructure Committee.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.


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