In recent years, Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) have become a prevalent solution to deliver highway projects across the United States (US). Over the last two decades, 22 design-build-finance-operate-maintain (DBFOM) highway projects have been implemented, with half of these projects being awarded between 2011 and 2015 alone. The use of P3s for the delivery of highway projects is driven by many factors, including: the ability to help close the increasing gap between declining funds and infrastructure costs; the ability to reduce pressure on government budgets; the ability to expedite financing; and the opportunity to facilitate innovation. Of interest in this research, however, is the ability of P3s to improve life cycle-oriented design strategies during design and construction. Previous studies have addressed certain advantages and disadvantages of P3s found within a particular life cycle phase in P3s. Other studies have explored how innovation is affected by the implementation of P3s. However, there are research gaps that include an exploration of:
advantages and disadvantages throughout a project’s overall P3 life cycle phase
life cycle design innovations and contract timing
life cycle design decision-making processes as a function of P3 organizational structures
This research increases the understanding of these three gaps through case study analyses. The case study design includes both single and multiple-case study analyses. The overarching research question posed for this research is: How do P3s influence the life cycle design decision-making process of highway projects? To further understand and explore this research question, three research sub-questions were further broken down as:
What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of P3s over conventional design-bid-build (DBB) delivery across a project’s P3 life cycle?
How does contract timing influence the ability to realize life cycle design innovations in P3 highway projects?
How do P3 organizational structures influence the life cycle design decision-making process of highway projects?
In response to these questions, we provide a holistic comparison of advantages and disadvantages of P3s across a project’s P3 life cycle. Through a single case study, the perceived advantages and disadvantages found in the literature are verified and organized in a conceptual P3 life cycle framework. A ‘grounded theoretical model’ is produced to explain the relative advantages and disadvantages of P3s over conventional DBB delivery. We next addresse the second question by employing a multiple-case study of three P3s and classifies life cycle design innovations through an ‘innovative lens.’ This approach provides a conceptual model that illustrates when more ‘radical’ life cycle design innovations can be realized, and how contract timing can influence the ability to realize life cycle design innovations in P3s. We next addresses the third question, through a multiple-case study of the same three P3s. This first identifies intended organizational approaches shown through mechanisms of coordination that increase P3 project integration. These intended approaches are then thoroughly analyzed against what was actually implemented to explore how the life cycle design decision-making processes were affected.
This research contributes to a better understanding of how P3s influence the life cycle design decision-making process in highway projects. P3 project delivery has been purported to improve life-cycle design decision-making, but this research found that this advantage is not always realized. This research presents frameworks and models that researchers and practitioners can use as a reference to successfully execute future P3s. It will help to insure that the intended P3 advantages are realized, while disadvantages are mitigated or improved at best.
- San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA)