The Oregon Innovative Partnerships Program was created by the legislature to develop partnerships with private entities and units of government that will expedite project delivery, maximize innovation in project development and leverage public funding with private resources.
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.” ODOT can use the program to design customized procurements to solicit project proposals, or it can accept unsolicited proposals from private firms or units of government.
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. It also requires consultation with affected local government entities and that projects be consistent with local and state transportation plans.
We have used the Innovative Partnerships Program to investigate and pursue a wide variety of projects ranging from privately financed toll roads and electric vehicle fast charge stations to fiber optic infrastructure and high-speed passenger trains. The program is an important tool in our toolkit to be able to respond nimbly to transportation improvement opportunities as they arise.