BWI for sale? Not quite
A report in FT.com, the Financial Times' web site, saying Gov. Martin O'Malley had expressed interest in the sale of BWI Marshall Airport or an initial public offering of stock in a privatized BWI may have been a tad exaggerated -- at least in terms of its impact in the blogosphere. But it certainly was interesting enough to send us in search of an explanation from the Maryland Department of Transportation.
So what's changed? According to MDOT spokesman Jack Cahalan, not much. Apparently a reporter asked the governor whether the state would be open to a deal at the airport similar to that recently concluded deal at the port of Baltimore for a long-term lease of Seagirt Marine Terminal. O'Malley, in response, didn't close the door on privatization, but Cahalan said he didn't open it any wider than it already was.
"There is no proactive effort by the administration to change the staus of BWI Marshall," Cahalan said.
Cahalan said the idea of an initial public offering is not plausible now because "we're not a private company." He said the department would continue to monitor trends and "best practices" in the airport industry but added that state officials know of no realistic privatization models worth even looking at -- let alone duplicating.
Cahalan added that the O'Malley administration is "open to new ideas" and has a process in place at the Maryland Transportation Authority to evaluate any unsolicited offers it might receive for state assets.
However, he added that the administration's policy on public-private partnnerships was that they would have bring public value, create jobs and improve a public service to merit consideration. Cahalan said last year's lease deal with Ports America at Seagirt met those criteria, but he cautioned that such an arrangement might not work at the airport.
"Just because one has worked for the port doesn't mean that other public-private partnerships will automatically work for every other property," Cahalan said. "Each property would have to be evaluated and examined thoroughly on its own merits because each proposal is different, as is each property."
In other words, the idea that a public-private partnership at BWI or anywhere else will provide a short-term fix to the state's transportation budget woes is likely way off the mark.