Both the Obama administration and Republicans in Congress say they want to marshal the power of the private sector in developing and maintaining the nation's infrastructure. The government's current budget crunch means that private investment certainly will be a big help in starting (and then actually finishing) any large road, tunnel, or bridge projects. Just how much leeway the government will give businesses in these partnerships is a matter of debate. Public-private partnerships can mean different things to different people.
Most transportation lobbyists are referring to some type of tolling when they speak of public-private partnerships. The administration has a slightly more expansive view with its proposed infrastructure fund, believing that businesses can involve themselves in all manner of government projects, such as putting up loans and contracting parts of projects.
What is the appropriate role for businesses in government infrastructure? Can public-private partnerships be leveraged to bring forth projects that otherwise would languish for lack of funding? Are there barriers that keep businesses from stepping up to invest in major infrastructure? If so, what can be done to remove them?