Supporters of public-private partnerships, from conservative former Transportation Secretary Mary Peters to Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell, insist that the next surface transportation bill make it significantly easier for the private sector to invest in infrastructure projects. At the other end of the spectrum, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar, D-Minn., wants to create an Office of Public Benefit and tough new requirements for tolling and public-private partnerships involving federal roads to make sure that the public interest is protected in deals with private investors.
How can policymakers strike the best balance between ensuring that the public gets a fair deal and making investment in infrastructure projects attractive to private capital? And how much funding for transportation projects is it realistic to expect from the private sector?