Saturday, March 02, 2013

A tale of two bridges

New PPP bridge; WVB East End Partners
This is a cute little story I wrote last week about two new bridges over the Ohio River. One will be privately financed and maintained, the other will be bought the traditional way. Both, though, will be built and designed by the same company. Any bets on which bridge will be in better shape in 40 years? This natural experiment may help answer this question.

Building infrastructure 

A river runs through it 

A natural experiment in infrastructure 

Mar 2nd 2013 | CHICAGO |From the print edition

IN 1969 Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon; the Boeing 747 took its maiden flight and the states of Indiana and Kentucky set their sights on building a new crossing over the Ohio river. Planners wanted a better connection between southern Indiana and the city of Louisville in Kentucky. Yet federal and state governments are notoriously slow to make such investments so it is not surprising that it has taken America four decades to reach a point where construction is imminent.

The plan, now known as the Ohio River Bridges project, calls for two new bridges. One crossing will be in downtown Louisville and the other will be slightly out of town. Construction is expected to begin this summer and they should both be open by 2016.

Good reasons abound for building both of the new crossings: they will improve regional mobility, generate jobs, improve access to markets and make transportation more efficient. But one of the unusual aspects of the plans is that the states of Indiana and Kentucky have unwittingly created one of the world’s best natural experiments for testing two methods of procuring infrastructure.

The downtown bridge is being built by Kentucky and the other, known as the East End crossing, is being built by Indiana. Yet while Indiana has legislation that allows for public-private partnerships (PPP), Kentucky does not. So the downtown bridge will be procured the traditional way, and the East End crossing will use a PPP. [More...]