Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland needs a more clearly defined framework for creating public-private partnerships to address the state’s infrastructure needs, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and others testified Friday.

A bill before the Legislature would create a streamlined process for the private sector to take part in building public roads or buildings, so participants would have a better understanding of what to expect.

“That gives the private sector confidence, and when the private sector has confidence they’re more likely, more willing, more ready to invest in public infrastructure,” Brown, a Democrat, said in an interview after the hearing.

Maryland already has a public-private partnership at the Port of Baltimore. The state also has one to operate travel plazas along Interstate 95. But supporters say such partnerships could play a greater role in developing infrastructure with better defined rules.

“I think it just enhances, significantly enhances, what could be done,” said Don Fry, chairman of the Greater Baltimore Committee.

The state estimates that 6 to 10 percent of infrastructure needs could be financed through public-private partnerships, while creating thousands of jobs, Brown said.

The partnerships could also help pay for transportation infrastructure, an issue that is receiving attention in Annapolis this session.

“This should be viewed as a complement, a supplement, to whatever revenue enhancements the General Assembly decides on,” Brown said, referring to efforts to generate more money for transportation projects.

The measure would add more oversight at the beginning of a project. It also would cut the amount of time it takes for a project to receive final approval. The bill also calls for more open and competitive solicitations for projects, and it would allow businesses to submit unsolicited ideas to address Maryland infrastructure needs.

A similar bill died last year. Its prospects were complicated by a provision that was added to allow legal appeals on such projects to be heard on an expedited track before the Court of Special Appeals. That part of last year’s bill has been taken out of this measure and put into separate legislation to be considered on its own.

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