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Policy Statement 526 - Public Private Partnerships


Approved by the Energy, Environment and Water Policy Committee on March 16, 2017
Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee on March 16, 2017
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on August 7, 2017
Adopted by the Board of Direction on October 8, 2017


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recognizes Public Private Partnerships (P3s) as one of many methods of financing and delivering infrastructure improvements. ASCE supports the use of P3 project delivery methods to enhance federal, state and local resources when the public interest is protected by meeting the following criteria:

  • Any public revenue derived from P3s must be dedicated exclusively back to comparable infrastructure facilities in the state or locality where the project is based. Revenue and assessment of revenue should be reported annually to the general public in a public forum available to access by all.
  • The P3 contract includes, at a minimum, performance criteria that address long-term viability, life cycle costs, return on public and private investment, takeover and turnback, projected yearly revenue, identification of responsible parties and their roles, and residual value.
  • Transparency and public participation in all aspects of contract development, project implementation and any subsequent operation.
  • There is participation and compliance by both public and private partners with all applicable planning and design standards, and environmental requirements. Appropriate professionals including professional engineers should be part of this process. 
  • The selection of engineering firms as prime consultants and subconsultants should be based solely on the qualifications of the engineering firm. 
  • Furthermore, a small and disadvantaged business program should be included with establishment of participation goals, outreach provisions, local company and human resources preferences, and presentation of plan to achieve stated goals and provisions. 


P3s refer to contractual agreements between a public sector contracting authority and a private entity for delivery of public infrastructure projects. In general, successful P3s share the following:

  • A Life Cycle Perspective: Private partner provides financing in addition to "bundled" project delivery phases including design, construction, operations, and maintenanc
  • Incentivized Risk Sharing: The private partner assumes substantial risks for compensation based on key performance outcomes. The private sector partner can be compensated from either public sector payments and/or any revenue generated from the project.
  • Public Ownership: The public partner retains project ownership and ultimate control.

Strained federal, state and local government budgets, combined with increasing demand, have led to the implementation of P3s in a growing number of states and localities. The injection of private capital into public works, however, has drawn some criticism or skepticism from stakeholder groups and raised the need for guiding principles for these projects as they are planned, implemented and maintained.

Guidelines for the development of P3 selection and contract provisions by governing agencies are necessary to protect the public interest. Issues addressed by these guidelines include, but are not limited to: 

  • input from affected individuals and communities 
  • design and construction quality 
  • environmental impacts
  • construction impacts
  • effectiveness
  • accountability
  • transparency
  • equity
  • public access
  • consumer rights
  • safety and security
  • sustainability
  • long-term ownership
  • completion schedule
  • maintenance condition
  • operational performance
  • reasonable rate of return
  • turnback provisions
  • takeover

P3s can be an effective method of project financing and delivery to supplement limited public funds to prevent continued degradation of infrastructure and reduced reliability of infrastructure systems, as well as provide needed additional capacity.  P3s do not replace the need for public funding of infrastructure projects and should only be used when the public interest is protected.


P3s are widely used globally to finance, design, construct, operate and maintain infrastructure improvements. In the United States, P3s are becoming more accepted, but there are no standard criteria for awarding and implementing P3s. ASCE believes that future use of P3s should be based on appropriate and transparent guidelines as a means of protecting the public interest. 

ASCE Policy Statement 526 
First Approved 2008