Lesson 3: Should Highways be Financed and Funded by Public-Private Partnerships?
The purpose of this lesson is to introduce the concept of public-private partnerships and to understand its potential to contribute to the financing and funding of infrastructure needs. The lesson begins with a student activity that spotlights value conflicts involved with infrastructure financing and funding decisions. Then, the lesson moves to a definition of public-private partnerships and an assessment of strengths and weaknesses for this approach to infrastructure financing and funding. The lesson concludes with a case study that asks students to look at four different approaches to the financing and funding of a new, 25-mile highway section of highway and then make a recommendation for the one that best serves the public.
Students should be able to do the following at the end of the lesson:
- Understand how infrastructure projects are financed and funded, as well as the distinction between these two concepts.
- Provide a general definition of a public-private partnership.
- Explain the major differences between traditional government approaches to highway infrastructure and that of public-private partnerships.
- Explain at least two potential advantages of public-private partnerships for highway infrastructure improvement.
- Explain at least two potential disadvantages of public-private partnerships for highway infrastructure improvement.
- Complete Value Conflict Warm-Up.
- Brief lecture defining public-private partnerships and explaining current interest in public-private partnerships in the United States.
- Student brainstorm of potential advantages and disadvantages of public-private partnerships with the Public-Private Partnership Worksheet Draft.
- Completion of brainstorm list with ideas from the Final Public-Private Partnership Worksheet.
- Division of class into small groups for a Highway Financing/Funding Options Case Study.
- Class discussion of small group Highway Financing/Funding Options Case Study Recommendations.
The design, development, validation and publication of these infrastructure teaching modules was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, Grant #1334292, and the Global Projects Center at Stanford University. All opinions and conclusions expressed in this paper reflect the views of the author/s, and not necessarily the views of these sponsors.