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Pittsburgh's Civil Engineering News Blog

Len Boselovic Reports Infrastructure Issues on Private-Public Partnerships

30 Mar 2015 5:58 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

Article by ASCE Awards Committee and ASCE-PGH Blog Editor

Mr. Len Boselovic of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is the recipient of the 2014 ASCE-PGH Journalism Award for his excellent journalistic work covering various infrastructure challenges. “The problem with infrastructure is that it's taken for granted. Many consider it to be boring,” says Mr. Boselovic. “I think it's important to make more people aware of the crisis America is facing because we have not taken care of our roads, bridges, ports, lock and dams, water systems and other infrastructure.”

Among his infrastructure articles is the outstanding four-part series “The P3 Dilemma,” about public-private partnerships (P3) and their role in infrastructure renewal.  With governments reluctant to raise taxes, public-private partnerships have emerged as a possible solution to acquire the estimated $3.6 trillion needed by 2020 for infrastructure rehabilitation and renewal. Mr. Boselovic’s series provided an in-depth exploration of P3 projects around the U.S., and the potential for P3 arrangements in Pennsylvania.

The P3 concept gathers support from the widespread perception that the private sector is more efficient and imaginative than the public sector. For government officials, the temptations of big upfront payments and a shift of responsibility to the private sector have been difficult to resist. Meanwhile, some private investors have invested outside the U.S. in private roads and other traditional government functions, and now eye what they consider to be the under-served U.S. market.

“Because no one likes to pay taxes, and most naturally assume the private sector is more efficient than government, P3s are being a looked at as a way to solve America's infrastructure problems,” says Mr. Boselovic. “But people need to know there are serious public policy and financial issues involved when major public assets are turned over to the private sector.”

Thus, despite pressing infrastructure needs, the U.S. has been slow to adopt P3s. Several high profile projects that did not live up to the promises made by P3 advocates have given government officials pause. Nevertheless, considering massive funding shortfalls and an enduring reluctance to raise taxes, P3s are expected to play an increasing role in addressing America’s infrastructure needs. Mr. Boselovic’s investigation makes it clear that the challenge is aligning the private sector’s profit motive with the public sector’s obligation to public welfare.

“The P3 Dilemma” appeared in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on August 10th -13th, 2014. Reporting on this topic was no small feat. 

The topic of private-public partnerships for infrastructure development and operation is particularly complex,” says Dr. Dave Dzombak, professor and head of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.  “Len invested months of effort researching different kinds of P3 arrangements, and evaluated objectively what has worked and what has not.  His resulting four-part series was informative, balanced, and helpful in illuminating the complexity of P3.” 

Since joining the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1993, Len Boselovic has covered many challenges of infrastructure renewal.  In 2012, he received the Pittsburgh Section Journalism Award for another excellent series on the state of U.S. inland waterway infrastructure, entitled “Locked and Dammed.” “Len's work has shed light on crucial infrastructure issues,” says Post-Gazette Projects Editor Lillian Thomas.  “His careful and extensive reporting allows him to write authoritatively about problems with infrastructure.”

Through this extensive reporting, Mr. Boselovic increases public awareness on Pittsburgh's infrastructure issues. "Len immerses himself in the topics he writes about,” says Post- Gazette Business Editor, Brian Hyslop. “Rarely have I seen a reporter work so diligently to understand subjects of such complexity and significance, and relay that understanding to readers."

Mr. Boselovic is a 1974 graduate of John Carroll University and received an MSJ degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 1981. Other recognitions include being named a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting sponsored by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University.

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