Bacon's Rebellion

Testing the Limits

Tony Kinn

With 22 projects in the pipeline, Tony Kinn and his team are garnering national recognition for their work on public-private partnerships. And they’re just getting started.

by James A. Bacon

Earlier this month Infrastructure Investor, a magazine covering global transportation investment, recognized Governor Bob McDonnell as its fifth “Public Infrastructure Official of the Year.” It was the first time the publication had bequeathed the honor to an American, and the first time to a public figure who ranked less than a national transportation minister.

‘Having delivered more [public-private partnership] projects than any state in the last five years, Virginia clearly stands out as a leader in utilizing public-private partnerships to improve transportation infrastructure,” stated the magazine. “Virginia currently has 22 public-private partnerships projects in the pipeline, more than all other states combined.”

Tony Kinn, the man whom McDonnell appointed to run the Office of Transportation Public Private Partnerships (OTP3) is doing everything he can to build that project backlog. The Commonwealth has already branched out from traditional toll-backed bridge and highway projects to leasing “air rights” over state highway right-of-way and outsourcing operation of the state’s five regional traffic control centers.

Now the McDonnell administration is preparing to introduce legislation in 2014 that would enable Virginia to devise new funding structures for infrastructure projects and tap new sources of private investment capital not now available in the United States. The use of so-called “availability payments” would apply to situations in which the state has insufficient cash to build a project right now but the economic benefits are tangible and immediate.

In the meantime, expect to see more mega-projects on the scale of the Capital Beltway and Interstate 95 express lanes in Northern Virginia, the Midtown-Downtown Tunnel project in Norfolk and the U.S. 460 Connector between Petersburg and Suffolk. The state has solicited proposals for upgrading Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia and several credible groups are expected to submit ideas. Kinn wants to see if the private sector can come up with options that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has not considered. Whoever wins that bid, look for something multimodal and vast in scope. Kinn foresees proposals for I-66 that include tolls, elevated lanes, dedicated Bus Rapid Transit lanes, even reversible lanes that run east toward Washington in the morning and west to the bedroom communities in the evening.

The overhaul of I-66 can’t come too soon. Texas Governor Rick Perry has already begun poaching Maryland for corporate investment, and the OTP3 chief is convinced that it’s just a matter of time before he hits Virginia, too. The Commonwealth must address the high cost of traffic congestion in Northern Virginia, he says. It is an economic-development imperative to get traffic moving.

Appointed in 2011, Kinn has lost no time — OTP3’s nine-man team has churned out public-private partnership deals at an extraordinary rate. A man lavish with praise for others, Kinn credits the skill and dedication of his staff and unstinting support from Governor McDonnell, Virginia Highway Administrator Greg Whirley and his boss, Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton. Other states have tried to put together P3 deals but not all have succeeded. “You could not get this stuff done without the proactive leadership of Sean Connaughton,” Kinn says. “He is a leader’s leader.” Read more.

There are currently no comments highlighted.