Leading from the front
There remains a long way to go of course before this translates into boots on the ground, but it is nonetheless an important step in the development of a country-wide program of P3 investment. To date, the vast majority of P3 deals have been state-led and for all the talk of a federal program of P3 investment, that is yet to materialize.
Indeed, the rumors that have swirled in recent weeks suggest that President Donald Trump has cooled on the idea of a trillion-dollar P3 pipeline, with some suggesting that he doesn’t think the model is up to scratch. With some Democrats in Congress also known to be hostile to the P3 idea (particularly if articulated by a property developer president), that longed-for bipartisan infrastructure bill may be more publicly funded than was once imagined.
If that really is the case, it means that this pilot program being developed by USACE may be of even greater importance, as it can act to show how public-private partnerships can work for the public good to deliver timely and cost-effective infrastructure.
All eyes will now be on USACE, to see if it can ensure that these initial projects can deliver successful outcomes. If it does, there will not only be a powerful case in favour of extending the initial pilot into a full-blown program, but it will also give fresh impetus to those on Capitol Hill trying to get the model used across a wider range of infrastructure schemes.
That, of course, is a long-term goal, for it will take many years to decide whether the P3 pilot schemes have been a success.
But in the short term, it may be possible to highlight the benefits of the model by showing the innovation that it can bring. That, therefore, puts the onus on the private sector to bring some new ideas to the table for USACE to consider.
The opportunity is there, it will now be important for the market to grasp it with both hands.