Building an inclusive and thriving northeastern Illinois through public-private partnerships

The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act creates a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform how people and goods move throughout northeastern Illinois. The region soon will see an infusion of dollars for projects that can ease congestion, reduce emissions, and reinvigorate aging roads and bridges.

But to make this vision a reality, state and local transportation leaders will need to manage and implement projects at a quicker pace. ON TO 2050, the comprehensive plan for northeastern Illinois, calls for using public-private partnerships (P3) strategically to help fully fund the region’s transportation system. A new program from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) works toward achieving that by making the delivery of infrastructure projects more efficient and effective.

Last fall, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Build America Bureau awarded CMAP a two-year, $1 million grant. The bureau’s Regional Infrastructure Accelerator grant supports public-private partnerships as an alternative procurement option for governments.

A large yellow crane and construction workers at a train station construction site.

CMAP’s new program will leverage the expertise of the private sector and ensure projects that can fix bridges, support electric vehicles, and improve accessibility are ready for construction sooner. Some commonly used public-private partnerships allow public agencies to keep ownership of roads, bridges, and other publicly owned assets but gives the private sector the responsibility of design, construction, financing, operation, and maintenance.

Thanks to sharing resources, the design work for a project could be shortened from three or five years to one or one-and-a-half years. Public agencies also can spread out the expense of capital improvements, paying in installments over a long period (20+ years) versus a lump sum due at the completion of construction.

The new grant funding will help CMAP and our partners develop an initial pipeline of projects, with the intent of bringing at least one public-private project to market. Through this program, CMAP is also creating a P3 Knowledge Center to grow the region’s capacity and culture around public-private partnerships.

As northeastern Illinois’ comprehensive planning agency, CMAP prides itself on equipping our 284 communities with the resources they need to move infrastructure improvements forward. The effort to build a culture around public-private partnerships is no different. The agency is excited to get to work and deliver timely infrastructure projects for our region’s residents in new and innovative ways.