20 February 2012
Construction of the Beauharnois Bridge in Montreal, Canada.
Finding funds for infrastructure construction is a continuing challenge for governments and highway authorities around the world, and in North America the increased involvement of the private sector in the form of public-private partnerships is receiving a mixed welcome. As our lead article demonstrates, the variety of ways in which the private sector is being involved is as extensive as the projects on which its involvement is being seen, and the benefits it brings can be measured in much more than just access to funding.
Canada’s highway industry has been working with public-private partnerships for long enough for it to be established as the norm, rather than the exception, in particular for large-scale highways and major bridges. But Canadian owners and the federal bodies that promote the involvement of the private sector are keen to underline the fact that it’s not just about exploiting private finance – the partnership approach benefits by placing risk with those parties best equipped to manage it, and enables other efficiencies to be brought to the project.
In the USA adoption of public-private partnerships is increasing, but different states are taking markedly different approaches to this new method of procurement. Meanwhile the Mexican government has shown interest in following a similar path, having just recently passed enabling legislation.
In parallel with this new procurement option, research continues into technology and specialist techniques that can enable better bridges to be built faster, with knowledge-sharing now also being promoted as part of the equation. Efforts to ensure that information and experience from pilot projects is shared between different states are seen as key to increasing acceptance of such techniques
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