Privatization and Government Reform Newsletter: Expanding Telehealth Access, Interstate Rest Area Commercialization, and More

Privatization and Government Reform Newsletter

Privatization and Government Reform Newsletter: Expanding Telehealth Access, Interstate Rest Area Commercialization, and More

Plus: Connecticut’s public infrastructure needs private sector help, Alaska DMV privatization proposal withdrawn, and more.

Main Articles

  • Health Care: Expanding Access to Health Care Through State Telehealth Reforms
  • Transportation: Removing the Ban on Commercial Interstate Rest Areas
  • Legislation: Connecticut Bill Facilitates Needed Projects 

News & Notes

  • Transportation: Los Angeles Approves Rail Pre-Development Projects, Improving Rail Movement, and Streetlighting Partnership
  • State Government: Colorado Workers’ Comp Privatization Fails, Alaska DMV Privatization Proposal 
  • Higher Education: Maine Shortlists Housing P3, Texas Tech and Florida Atlantic Announce Laboratory-Based P3s

State Reforms Are Key to Expanding Telehealth

While telehealth was already emerging as a technology with great promise in delivering health care services, the COVID–19 pandemic spurred the need to build on existing platforms to allow better access to telehealth, resulting in more access to health services when in-person interaction has been difficult. But telehealth’s benefits are not confined to pandemics and its demonstrated success should continue as states increasingly allow and expand the use of telehealth services.

In a pair of new publications, Reason Foundation’s Vittorio Nastasi explores how two states can initiate reforms that enable greater access to telehealth. In “Medicine in a Digital World—Ensuring Permanent Access to Telehealth Care in Louisiana,” a collaboration with Louisiana’s Pelican Institute, Nastasi and co-author Eric Peterson examine what’s holding back telemedicine, including a lack of guidance for health care boards to govern the practice and a lack of rulemaking mandate. In “Expanding Access to Telehealth in Florida,” Nastasi and the James Madison Institute’s Sal Nuzzo tackle scope-of-practice laws and Medicaid limitations, which hinder telehealth proliferation in Florida, despite the state’s demonstrated progress on the issue.

Interstate Rest Area Commercialization Is Needed and Long Overdue

While a few major tolled highways like the New York Thruway and the Indiana Toll Road offer travelers full-service commercial plazas, rest areas on fuel-tax-supported interstates eek by with only parking, restrooms, and vending machines. This is because existing federal policy bans public rest area commercial development, which could better serve truckers and motorists. In a new report, “Rethinking Interstate Rest Areas,” Reason Foundation’s Robert Poole explores how the outdated federal law prevents addressing the shortage of safe overnight parking for truckers and the growing need for electric vehicle charging stations. Poole details how a change in federal policy could lead to a reimagining of Interstate rest areas.

Connecticut’s Public Infrastructure Needs Private Sector Help

Like most states, Connecticut faces myriad deferred maintenance problems with its bridges, roads, water systems, and other public infrastructure. While the state does allow some public-private partnership (P3) authority, it affects only a handful of agencies, and existing legislative roadblocks prevent projects from taking shape in the first place. In a piece for the Connecticut Mirror,  I examine how Connecticut’s Senate Bill 920 could expedite the needed replacement of infrastructure assets while also minimizing deferred maintenance problems in the future. 

News and Notes


Los Angeles Metro Approves Transit Corridor Pre-Development Contracts, Announces Environmental Review Options

This month Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced it would consider five procurement options for the Sepulveda Valley public-private partnership project’s environmental review process. The project calls for a private team to develop and operate a rail line that would run from the west side of Los Angeles north to the San Fernando Valley. Two options include constructing a monorail line, while the other three rely on heavy rail construction, with the monorail options mostly running above ground, and the heavy rail lines mostly running underground. Back in March, Metro approved a pair of pre-development services contracts for the project with two private consortia: rail-focused Sepulveda Transit Partners, which includes Bechtel, Meridiam, and American Triple I Partners, and LA SkyRail Express, a monorail-focused consortium of John Liang and BYD Transit Solutions. While the selection of a final P3 partner is not expected until 2025, early estimates price the initial baseline monorail proposal at $6.1 billion and the heavy rail proposal at $10.8 billion.

Passenger and Freight Rail Partner to Improve Movement Between D.C. and Richmond

Amtrak, the Virginia Rail Express (VRE), state of Virginia, and private rail operator CSX formally announced a new $3.7 billion effort, called “Transforming Rail in Virginia,” aimed at improving the rail movement of freight and passengers through Virginia from Richmond to the District of Columbia. The most troubling spot is CSX-owned Long Bridge, which is the only means for traditional passenger and freight trains to cross the Potomac River from Arlington, Virginia, into Washington, DC. A major component of the planned project is an estimated $1.9 billion new passenger bridge to allow CSX to operate the existing Long Bridge itself, planned for a 2030 completion. The plan also calls for Virginia to acquire 386 miles of railroad right-of-way, 223 miles of rail from CSX, and an additional $1 billion invested by the state in rail infrastructure projects. The completed vision requires finding partners and funding to construct and operate a four-track corridor from Richmond to Washington, DC (two each for freight and passengers), to be completed in two phases. Amtrak is providing $944 million in funding and VRE is providing $200 million for the project.

D.C. Releases Streetlight P3 RFP

A recent press release revealed that the District of Columbia’s Department of Transportation and Office of Public-Private Partnerships has released a request for proposals to three shortlisted providers—Plenary Infrastructure DC, Meridiam Smart Solutions DC, and DC Smart Lighting Partners—for a streetlighting public-private partnership. The project calls for replacing 75,000 streetlights with LED lighting with remote monitoring and controlling capabilities. This technology reduces energy consumption by over 50 percent, upgrades Wi-Fi access points, and eases adaptation of new technologies as they become available.

State Government

Colorado Legislative Committee Rejects Pinnacol Privatization Bill

In March, the Colorado House’s State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee killed House Bill 1213, which would have made the state’s workers’ compensation insurer, Pinnacol, into a private entity. While attempts have been made to privatize the insurer over the past two decades, Pinnacol itself, and companies that had previously opposed the change, came out in favor of the restructuring. By law, Pinnacol can only sell workers’ compensation insurance, and only in the state of Colorado, both constraints would have been eliminated by the bill.

Alaska DMV Privatization Proposal Withdrawn

Alaska Gov. Mike J. Dunleavey recently withdrew a plan to replace six of Alaska’s Department of Motor Vehicles offices in rural areas with private vendors. Political opposition to the plan grew over claims that the move would cost more money. However, figures provided by the Alaska Department of Administration in a March presentation to a House Finance subcommittee used to justify those claims lacked any details to verify the source of the numbers and the methodology used to determine them. The withdrawn proposal keeps the six rural DMV locations—in Delta Junction, Eagle River, Haines, Homer, Tok, and Valdez—operating “in-house” for at least another year.

Higher Education

The University of Maine System Releases Housing P3 RFP

The University of Maine system released a request for Proposals (RFP) to four shortlisted firms for a P3 to design, build, finance, and potentially operate new housing developments on its Farmington and Presque Isle campuses that would combine for roughly 400 beds. Proposals are due in early May, with the winning proposal expected to be selected in June.

Florida Atlantic University Solicits Marine Testing P3

In March, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) issued invitations to negotiate (ITNs) to find a private partner to build a marine research facility on leased land from FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Campus. While details are still in development, proposals sent in response to the ITNs are due in May and FAU looks for the partnership to extend to no later than April 2060.

Texas Tech Announces Partnership to Promote Geological Research

Texas Tech University (TTU) announced it had formed a public-private partnership with Midfield Oilfield Group (MOG) to improve geological research and data accessibility. The venture’s primary purpose is to enhance the availability of TTU’s and MOG’s vast collections of rock core samples and cuttings. Texas Tech’s roughly 250,000 samples, originally gifted to the school by Exxon Mobil, would be incorporated into MOG’s proprietary web portal datastak, which already includes data for millions of rock and well samples. Although figures were not available, MOG will also commit to funding undergraduate and graduate scholarships.

Quotable Quotes

“The District is excited to move forward with our plan to modernize over 75,000 lights in neighborhoods across the city. With this RFP, we will continue to lead the country in energy efficiency by replacing inefficient lights, improve public Wi-Fi access, and expand tools to protect our neighborhoods.” 

—Washington, DC, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio in a press release announcing the RFP release of the streetlighting public-private partnership.

“What is also transformative is that this initiative is being done in cooperation with the host freight railroad, as this agreement increases capacity, reliability, and fluidity for BOTH freight and passenger rail. Rather than increase passenger rail at the expense of throughput capacity for freight operators, we have worked collaboratively with CSX to create a ‘win-win’ for both freight and passenger rail.”

—Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine in March testimony on the $3.7 billion “Transforming Rail in Virginia” initiative.