Background: The Pennsylvania Rapid Bridge Replacement (RBR) Project will replace 558 structurally deficient bridges in three years through a $1.117 billion availability payment-based Public-Private Partnership (P3). The bridges are smaller spans on local streets and in rural areas across the state. The project will accelerate the replacement of the bridges with robust, high quality new structures that will be well maintained and have longer lifespans. By bundling the replacement of over 500 bridges in a single P3 procurement, PennDOT hopes to create efficiencies through economies of scale and by applying asset management best practices throughout the 25-year concession period. The bridges have also been designed to minimize environmental impacts and public inconvenience during construction. The PennDOT RBR experience can serve as an exemplar of how to deliver a Bridge Bundling program with hundreds of bridges successfully, and how a Bridge Bundling program can be procured and delivered through a P3 framework.

PennDOT Rapid Bridge Replacement Program

Approach/Why it succeeded:

  • Uses Innovative Finance Tools
  • The state will keep ownership of the bridges throughout the contract.
  • The Rapid Bridge Replacement Project, Pennsylvania’s first public-private partnership, is also the first P3 in the U.S. to bundle multiple bridges into a single procurement.
  • Bundles bridges of similar size and design, and components can be mass produced, resulting in time and cost savings to taxpayers.
  • Obtained a SEP-15 waiver to delegate NEPA/permitting responsibility to the private partner as part of the agreement.
  • Used 11 Pennsylvania-based subcontractors.
  • Locked in maintenance costs for the next 25 years. The public benefit of this approach is the delivery of a well-maintained asset over that contract term, avoiding the possibility that state budget priorities would require deferring maintenance in the years to come.
  • Funding: Mobilization, milestone and availability payments from PennDOT; general revenues; and interest earned.
  • Achieves a sizeable reduction of the number of structurally deficient bridges in the state over a very short period of time (in just 3 years).
  • Sets many precedents: Pennsylvania’s first transportation P3 project, the nation’s first multi-bridges availability payment concession, and the first project in which the developer won approval through the SEP-15 program to conduct the environmental process.

“By doing this project, we are ensuring that this large inventory of rural bridges remains open without restrictions, without postings, or outright closings. Loss of these bridges would have been devastating to these rural areas as it would have meant in many cases very, very long detours and serious disruptions to emergency vehicles, school buses, and of course commerce.” (PennDOT Highlights Progress on Public-Private Bridge Partnership — April 18, 2018)

“The exact savings are being able to design several bridges with the same types of plans, being able to use the same types of materials on several bridges, so we’re saving those costs as well.” (PennDOT Rapid Bridge Replacement Project — a Public-Private Partnership) (PennDOT Rapid Bridge Replacement Project — a Public-Private Partnership)

Leslie S. Richards:, Former DOT Secretary