The Oregon Innovative Partnerships Program was created by the legislature to develop partnerships with private entities and units of government in order to expedite project delivery, maximize innovation in project development and to leverage public funding with private sources of capital.
The enabling statute defines a transportation project as “Any undertaking that facilitates any mode of transportation in this state.” This broad and highly flexible authority can be used to pursue projects that apply to highways, bridges, rail, ports, ancillary facilities, telecommunications and more.
To become a project, the Oregon Transportation Commission must make a formal finding that doing so will “...have the potential to accelerate cost-effective delivery and promote innovative approaches to carrying out the project.” We at ODOT can use the program to design customized procurements to solicit project proposals, or we can accept unsolicited proposals from private firms or units of government.
More flexibility in projects, programs
The program enables private partners to participate in earlier developmental stages of projects instead of traditional design-bid-build project delivery methodologies. It also allows projects to be selected based on best overall value instead of having to go with the lowest bid. There are even provisions for entering into direct negotiations with private firms in certain circumstances.
Some of the most important provisions of the program envision public/private partnerships governed by negotiated agreements. The program is exempt from most of public procurement restrictions in ORS Ch. 279 that can be time consuming and cumbersome. There are important protections for sensitive business and financial information governed by administrative rules. Rules also require consultation with affected local government entities and that projects be consistent with local and state transportation plans.
We have used the Oregon Innovative Partnerships Program to investigate and pursue a wide variety of projects ranging from privately financed toll roads to electric vehicle fast charge stations, from fiber optic infrastructure to high-speed passenger trains.
The program is an important tool in ODOT’s toolkit to be able to respond nimbly to transportation improvement opportunities as they arise.