PORTSMOUTH CITY council hopes to become the first local authority to seek private finance bids to maintain, fund and operate its main roads.
It was due to submit an outline business case for a scheme covering a 43km trunk road network to the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions this week.
Portsmouth desperately needs to upgrade its roads: 48% of its network is in a critical or failed condition compared with the national average of 15%. Busiest parts of the city's network carry about 80,000 vehicles a day in each direction.
The council also plans to hand over responsibility for patch and mend work on its other roads to the private contractor under a separate contract which will include maintenance of services such as street lights.
The council will bid for £18.5M of central government funding which will go towards paying the contractor a combination of availability and shadow toll payments.
If the bid for government funds is successful Portsmouth will award a 25-year maintain, finance, operate concession to a private consortium by October 2001.
Portsmouth assistant city engineer Jim Comport said that 90% of payments to the private consortium will be on an availability basis, with the remaining 10% paid as shadow tolls. He added that the city needed private finance help because it was losing the battle to maintain its roads. Central government funding constraints have prevented it from spending more than £1M a year on capital maintenance, but the city claims it needs to spend £25M over the next five years.