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PennDOT P3 Process Presses Forward

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

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The Pennsylvania Public-Private Transportation Partnership Office has recently announced that it will be inviting three teams to submit proposals for its Major Bridge P3 Initiative.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the competitive public-private partnership program is a component of PennDOT’s forthcoming Pathways initiative, which aims to identify sustainable transportation funding options in response to a growing highway and bridge funding gap.

The new transportation initiative also intends to help accelerate the reconstruction and rehabilitation of major bridges in partnership with the private sector.

Infrastructure Halts, Gas Taxes

The aforementioned highway and bridge funding gap had been exacerbated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning in early 2020.

Regarding PennDOT’s projects in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department announced in March 2020 that it and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission would be ceasing work on all its projects at the time for a minimum of two weeks. The pause in construction followed state Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to extend the shutdown of all non-essential businesses to all of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

benkrut / Getty Images

The Pennsylvania Public-Private Transportation Partnership Office has recently announced that it will be inviting three teams to submit proposals for its Major Bridge P3 Initiative.

In addition to halting construction, the Department also closed all district offices, motorist licensing offices and welcome centers. However, the Turnpike and PennDOT continued to provide emergency repair maintenance as needed.

The following month, Wolf announced a three-phase gradual reopening plan of the state’s economy, which included the reopening of construction, auto sales and retail stores, provided they practice social distancing and follow other COVID-19 mitigation measures.

However, while the state’s economy reopened sometime in June last year, PennDOT officials began grappling with the issue of how the state would pay for projects. At a May 2020 state Senate hearing, Acting Secretary Yassmin Gramian said that a revenue loss of $900 million was projected, largely attributed to the pandemic causing Pennsylvanians to drive less.

The reduced driving throughout the state shutdown drastically cut the gasoline tax revenue, which is what PennDOT primarily uses for projects that include maintenance.

Because of this, Gramian said that only 33 of 96 contracts that PennDOT had received bids for (worth $380 million) had funding. The rest were being reevaluated. She also said that the agency would shift maintenance projects from resurfacing to tar-and-chipping wherever possible.

In addition to PennDOT’s gas tax revenue, Turnpike CEO Mark Compton also said that the light traffic had resulted in a projected loss of $500 million in toll revenue, prompting the Turnpike to cut its capital budget for the fiscal year that began in June from $606 million to $459 million.

PennDOT reports that 74% of highway and bridge funding is generated through the gas taxes, but fuel consumption had been progressively decreasing.

Officials hesitated to speak on which big projects will be delayed at the time as they hoped to get money from a national infrastructure program, which could come with its own strings attached.

In August 2020, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association found through a review of publicly available data on transportation revenue and construction programs from states and local governments that $9.6 billion worth of projects had been delayed or canceled.

Major Bridge P3 Program

In December 2020, the Major Bridge P3 Program was approved, officially permitting PennDOT to solicit proposals for the design, build, operation and maintenance of select bridges across the state under 20- to 30-year concession agreements.

The projects include both individual and multi-bridge packages associated with roadwork, involving what the agency calls “structures of significance based on physical size, location and cost to replace or rehabilitate.”

In terms of paying for these projects, the Department reports that electronic tolling would be implemented on the completed structures, with any excess revenue applied to other road and bridge projects.

The program also plans to aid PennDOT in achieving the following goals:

  • Accelerate the renewal of major bridges to ensure public safety;
  • Avoid time and financial impacts of travel diversion resulting from bridge restrictions and closures due to bridge condition;
  • Help offset gas tax revenue losses, as identified by the state Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) and exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic;
  • Ensure users (including out-of-state traffic) contribute fairly to the replacement or rehabilitation of the bridges based on usage; and
  • Create a sustainable funding model for the state’s major bridges.

The initiative also aims to provide travelers, residents and businesses with high-quality transportation infrastructure by studying and implementing alternative funding solutions that could address near- and long-term highway and bridge needs.

Current Procurement Process

Three teams have recently been invited to submit proposals and compete for a P3 with PennDOT for the state’s Major Bridge P3 Initiative.

PennDOT reports that the teams were selected based on criteria including experience and technical approach to carry out the project; their relevant experience and qualifications of key personnel; their investment and financial experience; and their overall understanding of the project and their approach to deliver all project requirements.

“Combined with potential federal and state action on transportation investments, this initiative will ensure critical projects are completed while also freeing resources for other projects,” PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said in a statement. “Based on our state's past P3 projects we expect significant opportunities for Pennsylvania companies to work on this initiative and the other projects it makes possible.”

The teams invited to submit proposals are:

  • Bridging Pennsylvania Partners, composed of: Macquarie Infrastructure Developments LLC; Shikun & Binui Concessions USA Inc.; STV Incorporated; FCC Construccion, S.A.; Shikun & Binui – America Inc; and SAI Consulting Engineers Inc;
  • Keystone Pathway Developers, composed of: Kiewit (Development Company, Engineering Group Inc., and Infrastructure Co., dba Keystone Pathway Constructors); Star America PA Bridges LLC; and Urban Engineers Inc.; and
  • Keystone Pathways Mobility Partners, composed of: Cintra Infrastructures SE, Itinera Infrastructure and Concessions Inc.; Halmar International LLC and North Tarrant Infrastructure LLC (unincorporated joint venture); Jacobs Engineering Group Inc.; and KS Engineers, P.C.

All construction work is mandated to be performed by contractors prequalified for work in Pennsylvania. Additionally, at least 65% of the construction work will be subcontracted to other firms that are prequalified for work in the state.

The private development entity ultimately chosen for the P3 will enter into a pre-development agreement to work with PennDOT to finalize the design and packaging of the final bridges to be built, financed and maintained. Each package will include select bridges and associated infrastructure, including tolling infrastructure, gantry structures and toll buildings for each bridge that is advanced in the program.

PennDOT adds that the public involvement and environmental review process is still ongoing on candidate bridges through the initiative.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Bridges; Department of Transportation (DOT); Government; Government contracts; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Public-private partnerships (P3); Transportation

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