The global infrastructure public-private partnership and the extra-territorial politics of collective provision: The case of regional rail transit in Denver, USA

Blog by Andrew EG Jonas, Andrew R Goetz and Sylvia Brady

23 Jan 2019, 10:04 a.m.
Andrew EG Jonas, Andrew R Goetz and Sylvia Brady



Photo of authors at the RTD A Line commuter rail at Union Station in Denver, CO USA

Photo of authors at the RTD A Line commuter rail at Union Station in Denver, CO USA


Recent Headlines:

“The American Infrastructure Act leverages public-private partnerships and private investments through tax incentives to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over the next ten years.” Donald Trump, Nov 2016, PBS Newshour

“Trump calls Public-Private Infrastructure Partnerships ‘more trouble than they’re worth” Wall Street Journal, Sep 27, 2017

“RTD threatens to end its [P3] contract with its commuter rail operator” October 10, 2018 Colorado Public Radio

Public-private partnerships, PPPs, P3s - whatever you choose to call them - have been used in many parts of Europe, Latin America, and even Africa, but they are relatively new in the building of transit infrastructure in the United States. The first such transit infrastructure using a full design-build-finance-operate-maintain (DBFOM) model is the Eagle P3 project in Denver, Colorado, U.S., recently opened in April of 2016.

In the U.S., the use of P3s in building transportation infrastructure has mainly been applied to toll roads, but recent highly publicized ventures have been regarded as failures, such as the Indiana Toll road project that President Trump referred to when he called P3s, “more trouble than they are worth.” Prior to this statement, the Trump administration’s key funding mechanism for future infrastructure relied heavily on the private sector financing of projects.

In our recent paper in the special issue “Funding, financing and governing urban infrastructures,” we highlight the novel approach of Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) in developing a global infrastructure public-private partnership to finance, build, and operate a new commuter rail service. We introduce a new term, global infrastructure public private partnership (GIP3), to describe the importance of global finance in the role of P3s. Recently, the Eagle P3 project, which our paper examines, has been taking some heat, with RTD threatening to rescind the contract and sue the private consortium involved in financing and delivering the project. This comes after the private partner, Denver Transit Partners (DTP), sued RTD last month arguing they should be reimbursed for penalties DTP incurred.

Such recent issues shore up the importance of this research on the successes and failures of GIP3s in transit infrastructure building because RTD’s use of the GIP3 has been touted as a model for other U.S. transit agencies that seek to address local and federal funding shortfalls. This research is especially timely and significant because it sheds light on the importance of local political conditions in such contractual arrangements and the role of the GIP3 model in either supporting or undermining models of regional collaboration and transit infrastructure expansion in the U.S.


Read the paper on Urban Studies - OnlineFirst here



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