Public-Private Partnerships for Transportation: A Toolkit for Legislators


cover of the NCSL report on PPPs for TransportationOn Dec. 9, 2010, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) released the seminal report Public-Private Partnerships for Transportation: A Toolkit for Legislators. An update to the report was released on Feb. 10, 2014.

Download or view individual appendices:


Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs or P3s) for Transportation

As state governments struggle to meet growing transportation infrastructure needs while revenues dwindle, leveraging existing resources through the use of public-private partnerships (PPPs or P3s) has become increasingly attractive. As of Dec. 2010, twenty-nine states and Puerto Rico had legislated an authorization framework for transportation PPPs, and more than $46 billion had been invested in these projects over the last 20 years. The legislative trend grew in 2010 as 21 states and the District of Columbia considered 52 legislative measures concerning transportation PPPs.

PPP for transportation mapPPPs are agreements that allow private companies to take on traditionally public roles in infrastructure projects, while keeping the public sector ultimately accountable for a project and the overall service to the public. In PPPs, a government agency typically contracts with a private company to renovate, build, operate, maintain, manage or finance a facility. PPPs cover as many as a dozen types of innovative contracting, project delivery and financing arrangements between public and private sector partners.

Though PPPs are not optimal for many transportation projects, they have been shown to reduce upfront public costs through accelerated or more efficient project delivery. PPPs don’t create new money but instead leverage private sector financial and other resources to develop infrastructure. In the end, a source of revenue such as tolls or other public revenue still is required to pay back the private investment. In this era of fewer viable choices for moving ahead with critical infrastructure development, PPPs are an option many states are contemplating.

The NCSL Toolkit

With the growing interest in PPPs, the debate over their use has become somewhat polarized and reasoned voices have been harder to discern. The NCSL Partners Project on PPPs for Transportation produced the report Public-Private Partnerships for Transportation: A Toolkit for Legislators in December 2010.  The toolkit provides expert guidance, dependable counsel and a compilation of best practices to assist state legislatures as they consider whether and how to pursue PPPs in their states.

Solid, balanced and comprehensive state enabling legislation is the key to thorough consideration and success of PPP projects, while protecting the public interest. The centerpiece of the toolkit is nine principles that promote a sound public policy approach to the consideration of PPPs. Clear explanations of PPP approaches, benefits and controversies, and roles and responsibilities also are provided. As well, the appendices have a wealth of specific state legislative information and detailed instruction on PPP issues.

See press release from Dec. 9, 2010.

The NCSL Partners Project on PPPs for Transportation

State legislators and legislative staff involved with NCSL have been tracking the trends in transportation funding, including PPPs, for several years. In 2008, NCSL formed a working group of state legislators, legislative staff and representatives of private sector entities to assemble reliable information and to identify effective tools for considering PPPs in the context of overall transportation funding decisions. The NCSL Partners Project on PPPs for Transportation met, deliberated and gathered information for 18 months, analyzing legislators’ needs and hearing from a variety of invited experts. It developed the NCSL toolkit and other nonpartisan, balanced and absorbable materials to aid the legislative process, both in their respective states and when considering state-federal relationships.

The project's Phase II (2010 to 2011) was a focused educational and awareness effort to help legislators put the principles developed in the toolkit into practice, as states continued to seek innovative financing solutions for the nation’s transportation needs.  Phase II achieved this through outreach, technical assistance, ongoing meetings and educational sessions with decision makers; follow-up activities in 2012 will include additional in-depth research into PPP policy options. For more information, see the project's Web page.

Key Links and Resources

A full list of resources is available in the report's selected bibliography.



Additional Resources