Fairfax County Supervisor John C. Cook (R-Braddock) is trying to restart efforts to draw up guidelines that would allow the traffic-challenged county to explore public-private partnerships to work on local transportation projects.
To take advantage of Virginia’s 1995 Public-Private Transportation Act, local jurisdictions must draw up guidelines for public-private partnerships that specify, among other things, how to deal with solicited or unsolicited proposals. The law is similar to a state measure that has allowed transportation officials to move forward on creating HOT Lanes on the Beltway. Fairfax County has discussed drawing up such regulations but without success.
Other Virginia counties, including Prince William, Loudoun, Stafford and Spotsylvania, have embarked on such local public-private projects.
“There’s no downside to this,” Cook said.
Cook, who unsuccessfully proposed adopting such guidelines at a meeting in December 2009, said at Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors that he believes the county should try again. He believes it’s time the county tapped private industry’s innovative and cost-cutting approach. Among the projects that he envisions for a private-public partnership are perhaps transforming the Fairfax County Parkway into a limited-access roadway that would cross the Potomac River into Maryland, or a project tying the Dulles Toll Road into downtown Tysons Corner someday.
“That’s the kind of stuff we’d look for,” Cook said in an interview.
Cook said he thinks the county has been reluctant to adopt such guidelines because county officials worry about getting sidetracked or overwhelmed by unsolicited proposals for jobs that might not be feasible or as necessary as others already programmed.
“The key is writing the guidelines,” Cook said. “You don’t want to overwhelm the staff. You don’t want everybody lining up with ‘Here’s my idea’ on the back of a napkin.” Perhaps a board could be set up to review unsolicited proposals, Cook said.
Cook said his Democratic colleague, supervisor Jeff McKay (Lee), who chairs the Board’s Transportation Committee, has agreed to permit staff to give a presentation at its upcoming committee. No date has been set, but it should be on the agenda sometime this fall.