A recent Republic report about the study of high-occupancy toll lanes on Valley freeways characterized the Arizona Department of Transportation’s public-private partnership program as “slow to evolve” and indicated that nothing had come of it (“Plan could ease congestion on Valley freeways, raise revenue,” A1, Dec. 28).

Never mistake caution and good sense for a lack of enthusiasm. The bitter lessons learned by other states that plunged into now troubled public-private partnerships should serve as a warning to all taxpayers and investors that before the signatures are inked on the public-private agreement, the details must be clearly understood by all parties.

House Bill 2396 gave ADOT the green light to establish a public-private partnership program and to use this tool as a funding option. ADOT has taken a deliberate pace to build such a program based on best practices, rather than in a rushed, haphazard fashion. Other states have rushed directly into projects and have had some less than positive outcomes as a result.

Even during this rough financial period, ADOT bonds enjoy a rating of AAA because of this deliberate approach. The use of public-private partnerships as a financing tool is no different, except that unlike the bonding program, ADOT had to start from scratch.

Before risking taxpayer dollars on an investment, ADOT will ensure that the proper legal, financial and procedural safeguards are in place to protect the taxpayer’s investment and that the taxpayers are informed and supportive of proposed investments.

We have established a broad playbook to guide the thoughtful consideration of proposed public-private partnership projects, including processes to determine if a proposal has merit.

This work laid the foundation for the study being conducted by the Maricopa Association of Governments. This concept will generate regional policy discussion, and it’s appropriate for the Valley’s metropolitan planning organization to lead the study. ADOT will participate as a technical adviser during the

Article source: http://feeds.stateline.org/~r/StatelineorgRss-Transportation/~3/fl6uAShsx6I/20110130halikowski31.html