Federal Transportation Official Urges Local Publicprivate Transportation Effort
Written by Eric Kalis on December 7, 2006
By Eric Kalis
Local and state government officials must partner with the private sector to run major transportation projects or traffic congestion will continue to hinder the region’s economic productivity, a US Department of Transportation official said last week.
"South Florida has a chance to be a world leader in transportation," said Robert DeHaan, deputy assistant secretary of transportation policy, during the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s transportation summit. To overcome congestion, the government should engage companies to assume a large share of project costs, Mr. DeHaan said.
Promoting public-private partnerships for transportation projects is one of several suggestions Mr. DeHaan offered chamber members from the department’s national perspective. These ideas are critical, he said, because Miami-Dade County’s congestion increase of 98% between 1999 and 2003 has slashed revenues of Miami International Airport and the Port of Miami.
Florida is one of the "model states" for public-private partnerships, Mr. DeHaan said, citing the Florida Department of Transportation and Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise as leaders of the trend. The US Department of Transportation is encouraging major cities nationwide to actively pursue these partnerships, he said.
County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez said during a panel discussion at the summit that the county should explore public-private partnerships because substantial public funding is tied up in current projects. Business can profit from the arrangement, he said.
South Florida leaders should learn from the problems Massachusetts officials are having with Boston’s Big Dig publicly funded underground expressway, said Robert Poole, director of transportation studies for the Reason Foundation.
The government should "allow the private sector to finance and maintain design-build projects," Mr. Poole said. "Nobody wants a Big Dig in Florida. The risk can be assumed by the private sector."
Other suggestions Mr. DeHaan offered to ease the region’s congestion include:
•Make Miami one of the department’s urban partners so both sides can work together to promote flexible scheduling and other incentives for commuters
•Accelerate major aviation capacity projects, because demand is projected to triple by 2025 as operating costs drop
•Nominate corridors for the department’s Corridors For Future program, which will select three to five transportation corridors from a nationwide pool for extensive improvements.
"Several of these ideas are a good fit for Florida," Mr. DeHaan said. "Congestion threatens our prosperity. The current course is not sustainable."