In a collaboration led by independent nonprofit research and development organization Battelle, three Maryland Transportation Institute (MTI) affiliates will spend the next year building a database of information related to public private partnerships (P3s) to bolster transportation project decisions and public policy. The project is funded by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
State transportation departments are increasingly turning to P3s to modernize and expand the nation’s network of roads, bridges, rail, and ports. The financing model was also at heart of the White House infrastructure proposal unveiled in February.
“If done well, collaborating with the private sector on major transportation projects can yield greater net investment and tap into management efficiencies,” said University of Maryland (UMD) Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Associate Professor Qingbin Cui, the project PI. “However, these collaborations are complex and won’t be appropriate for every project.”
To help state and local governments know when and how best to engage in P3s, the MTI and Battelle team will build an open-access, web-based database of past projects.
“We often work on these types of useful projects for the federal government, and we’re happy to have the University of Maryland as teammates on this project,” said Battelle Research Leader Bill Perez.
The platform will bring together implementation and outcome data from existing repositories, such as the FHWA’s Center for Innovative Finance Support website and the IJGlobal database. It will also include information from UMD’s Center for Advanced Transportation Technology Laboratory, the largest big data transportation center in the world.
The development team will supplement higher-level data available through existing sources with nine case studies. Representing a swath of P3 designs, these will feature detailed information on procurement selection, implementation, and long-term performance.
“We know from past projects that the usefulness of databases like this is about much more than just the data,” said Lei Zhang, Herbert Rabin Distinguished Professor, MTI director, and project co-PI. “One of our first tasks will be to stand up a stakeholder group of FHWA staff, state and local agency representatives, and other database users to ensure that all products, guidance, and training materials align with their needs.”
Cui, Zhang, and Perez and his team at Battelle are joined on the project by UMD Professor Paul Schonfeld, who earlier this year received the James Laurie Prize in recognition of his contributions to the advancement of transportation engineering. Chenfeng Xiong, Eirini Kastrouni, Chengyuan Diao, and Eric Ji will each lead facets of the project.
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