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Hearing eyes public-private partnerships

New York State's crumbling roads and bridges could use every bit of help that's available, including from private companies willing to finance their repair, several speakers at a Farmingdale public hearing said Tuesday.

The hearing was organized by Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick), chairman of the state Senate's Transportation Committee and the author of a bill that would allow state transportation agencies to enter into public-private partnerships -- often referred to as "P3s."

"What I saw today was public, private and labor support at the hearing," Fuschillo said after the event, held at Farmingdale State College. "Everybody understands the full importance of this legislation to improve, rebuild and maintain our infrastructure."

Such partnerships already are in place in several states, including Texas, California and Florida. But most state transportation agencies, including the New York State Department of Transportation and the Thruway Authority, are restricted from partnering with the private sector on projects.

Under the agreements, private contractors can design, build, repair and maintain roads and bridges for a long-term fee from the government.

John Buttarazzi, of the Queens-based private contracting firm Skanska USA Civil Inc., said public-private partnerships allow government to pay for projects over a longer time, freeing up money and resources for other needs.

"P3 projects are economic development. They are essential to economic growth," Buttarazzi said. "Other states will continue to reap the benefits at the expense of New York State. . . . Why shouldn't New York also benefit?"

Other speakers included DOT Deputy Commissioner Stanley Gee and Long Island Federation of Labor Executive Director Roger Clayman.

Fuschillo's bill passed the Senate Transportation Committee and will be voted on by the Senate next year. A similar proposal is before the Assembly.

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