The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission last week announced that it is looking to gauge interest among private corporations to build the remaining incomplete sections of the Mon-Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway projects near Pittsburgh.
The PTC board on Tuesday approved a measure to advertise for a request for expressions of interest, or REI, for the financing, construction, and operation of the roads. The 50 miles of new expressway would cost about $5.2 billion total, and currently there is not enough funding from the state or the federal government to take on the project. Currently, 35 miles of the Mon-Fayette Expressway have been built, and six miles of the Southern Beltway have been constructed.
“In order to complete the Mon-Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway, we made a commitment to analyze all funding options, including public-private partnerships, or P3s, which we have been exploring for the last 12 months or more,” said PTC chief executive officer Joe Brimmeier in a statement. “A P3 may indeed prove to be the best way to ensure the timely completion of these long-awaited projects, and by issuing the REI we’re taking the next step in the process.”
Pennsylvania’s House Transportation Committee chairman Joseph Markosek last month in a letter asked the commission to seek alternative funding for the highways, including considering P3s and studying how the private sector could be utilized to accelerate construction. He said the completion of the expressway is critical for the economic viability and the survival of the southwestern Pennsylvania region. Still, he says he is aware of the limited financial resources available for transportation infrastructure.
“At some point, the waiting game has to end. State funding is not getting the job done on a reasonable timeline, and the federal government has made no significant contribution,” Markosek said. “The possibility of what a public-private partnership may offer relative to the new construction components of these projects [is] worthy of further exploration.”
Brimmeier said that the PTC has the authority to enter into P3s when in the best interest of the commission, so no additional legislation would be needed. The General Assembly tasked the PTC with advancing these projects with passage of Act 61 of 1985.
The Transportation Commission has not yet determined when it will issue the REI, though spokesman Carl DeFebo said it will likely be soon.