GDOT taps board member Jeff Lewis to chair P3 committee
by Matt Shinall
Jan 31, 2013 | 1968 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Georgia Department of Transportation’s Public Private Partnership program invites private enterprise into the commission of traditionally public projects, which in turn reduce the department’s burden and will ultimately save taxpayer money.

Overseeing the program, known commonly as P3, is a committee of two GDOT board members, representatives from each division of the department and the program director.

Earlier this month, Bartow County native and GDOT board member, Jeff Lewis was appointed to the position of P3 Steering Committee Chair. In this role, he will help steer the program, recruit new companies to partner on transportation projects and provide oversight on existing projects.

“Primarily, the concept was developed for large road projects because it’s these very large, expensive infrastructure projects that local and state governments need help funding,” Lewis said. “A number of states across the nation started doing this, probably as early as the late ’80s or early ’90s, for toll roads and toll bridges and turnpikes and those sort of things as it relates to transportation infrastructure.

“In my opinion, it is a 21st century solution to challenges that are only going to get more expensive and it’s something that deserves serious attention and utilization if and when necessary and when it makes sense.”

A relatively new program, the idea that would lead to P3 got the green light from Georgia legislators while Lewis served in the State House of Representatives. Its first project was the conceptualization of the now under-construction Northwest Corridor. Since its inception, the Northwest Corridor project has been reduced from a wholly P3 initiative to a largely public endeavor with elements of P3.

Set to be completed in 2017, the Northwest Corridor is a traffic relief project for Interstate 75 from Cobb County to Interstate 285, taking the place of an outside-the-perimeter HOV lane. Guidelines of the Northwest Corridor are still in development, but proposed regulations would create toll and car pool options for use of the extra lane.

“The purpose of the toll lanes is to manage congestion,” Lewis said. “But if there are three people willing to share a ride in one car, then arguably that takes two cars off the road and that behavior is rewarded by allowing them to travel free in the toll lanes when they come online, just as they are now with two in the Hot Lanes or HOV lanes.

“The Northwest Corridor is one of the largest projects we have going on that still has some elements of P3 in it. ... It’s not completely P3, but it has elements of it remaining.”

Another P3 project currently in use is the roadside maintenance of Interstate 95 in Georgia. The portion of the roadway between South Carolina and Florida is maintained by a private vendor. The company, which won a formal bid process, now cleans debris and litter from the right of way along I-95 in addition to completing repair and maintenance projects on guardrails and signs as well as minor repairs for bridges and other infrastructure.

“The DOT more or less acts as in a supervisory role,” Lewis said of the I-95 roadside maintenance contract. “There is a [Request for Proposal] out right now for the same type of maintenance contract to occur on 75 between the Tennessee state line and the Cobb County line, so a large part of that would be in Bartow County.

“I think we have that narrowed down to two companies that can do something of that magnitude and we are just waiting to award the final bid. But the winning company will be charged with maintaining that section of the interestate as far as keeping it clean, keeping it mowed and making any repairs that may be necessary in the right of way”

P3 maintenance contracts do not include paving projects and are designed to eliminate secondary responsibilities up until now completed by the GDOT. Other P3 projects, like the Northwest Corridor are designed to help finance large construction projects over the course of several years following the completion of a new roadway.

“Their purpose is to save the taxpayer money and we don’t know yet exactly how much it’s saving, but if it’s not saving money right now, it’s certainly not costing money,” Lewis said. “We’re downsizing the department and there’s going to be a lot more opportunities like this for businesses.

“In the short term, the department thinks it’s breaking even, but in the long term, the department will not have to purchase and maintain necessary equipment for those jobs. Also, with budget cuts we won’t have to find personnel or provide benefits for those services, it’s just a contracted service.”

For more information, visit www.dot.ga.gov/informationcenter/p3/pages/default.aspx.