P3’s and Beyond – the Next Decade of Construction Projects
Report by Chuck Cobb on ABA Construction Industry Forum September 2013 Meeting
Construction lawyers from around the US gathered for the ABA Construction industry forum’s meeting with presentations about P3’s or Public Private Partnerships. Public owners are looking to ways to finance projects in an era of unavailable public funds. Unsurprisingly, financing determines how a project will be delivered.
Construction delivery systems are evolving because infrastructure upgrades are needed, government funding is scarce and because private financing arrangements are available if a project promises a steady stream of income over its lifespan. While PPP’s have been used mainly in the US for road and water projects, Canada finances a variety of social infrastructure projects by this method.
35 States have enacted laws enabling public private partnership exceptions to the otherwise onerous public construction procurement laws, most of these state law changes are just for road projects. The public owner will turn the project over to a “concessionaire” typically made up of parties with an equity stake but who also have 100% of the risk. Often the concessionaire will not just build but also contracts to operate and maintain the facility. Attorneys at the conference were comforted to learn that the interface agreements among PPP participants involve complex legal review. Lawyers’ work on P3 projects moves from litigating disputes at the end of the project to structuring innovative deals at the beginning.
To the extent the public entity is involved in the project team they become collaborators in reaching an outcome rather than the entity who lets the project out by standard public practices and simply demands results. This re-engineering of roles results in work being done more like private construction than like standard public construction. The risk shifting and teaming agreements lead to conversations that public owners are unaccustomed to holding.
PPP project delivery systems are likely to produce more and more projects.