Hampton Roads Mega Project Shows the Way for P3s is reporting on a potentially large public-private partnership budding in Norfolk-Virginia Beach. One of the best features of Virginia’s PPP legislation is that it allows unsolicitated bids from the private sector. In short, it recognizes that sometimes the private sector might have a good idea of what the highest-valued projects might be and how to fulfill them. A good example of the benefit of that feature is playing out in what is called the Hampton Roads project.

A consortium led by the Swedish infrastructure firm Skanska is taking advantage of the opportunity to make an unsolicitated bid to the Virginia Department of Transportation and proposing a series of road and tunnel widenings worth $3.5 to $4.5 billion. According to TollroadsNews:

“A group led by Skanska is proposing tolls on the three major crossings in the Hampton Roads area to fund $3.5b to $4.5b of works including additional travel lanes on the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (HRBT) and on I-64 on either side, as well as improvements and upkeep of the I-664 Monitor Merrimack Memorial Bridge Tunnel (MMMBT) and the James River Bridge (JRB). The proposal says tolls in the range $4 to $6 would be needed to support the outlays.

“Skanska’s proposal to VDOT is unsolicited and under the state’s public-private transportation act Virginia DOT will accept competing proposals for 120 days – until Feb 24, 2011.

“Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (HRBT) and the 9-mile, 15km stretch of I-64 between Hampton (at the I-664 interchange) and Norfolk (at the I-564 interchange) is the most seriously congested highway in the metro region. It is just 2+2 lanes expressway carrying close to 100k vehicles/day, often slowly moving or stopped.

“The Skanska proposal is to widen I-64 by one lane each direction to provide 3+3 lanes on both sides of the bridge-tunnel and to add 4-lanes to the crossing itself to make it 4+4 lanes. The third laving of approaches minimizes impacts to local communities while putting in place 8-lanes on the bridge-tunnel portion to provide for economical 4th laning of the whole corridor if needed in future.”

In addition to Skanska, the consortium includes Kiewit Infrastructure, Weeks Marine, and Parsons Brinkerhoff.

What I find particularly intriguing about this proposal is the diversity of projects and solutions. The project includes several widenings, minimizes neighborhood impact, and proposes taking over the operations of two existing bridges. The consortium is looking at the project holistically in terms of maximizing transportation benefits to the region. Moreover, the project will be funded through user fees (electronic tolling).