Abstract The application of public–private partnerships (P3’s) in the transportation sector has grown in popularity worldwide. Despite this important shift in the provision of transportation service, there are clear gaps in knowledge about the impacts of P3 projects, especially on emissions from transportation systems as a whole. Not only should policy makers evaluate the emissions impacts from P3 projects, but they should also think about innovative models that address or charge for emissions in P3 contracts. This addition to P3 contracts could provide a new solution to the long-existing property right paradox: who owns (is responsible for) emissions from transportation systems? This study attempts to fill the research gap by analyzing these innovative models. Using the road network of Fresno, California, as our case study, we offer a number of interesting insights for policy makers. First, average peak emissions costs range from 1.37cents per mile (the do-nothing case) to 1.20cents per mile (profit-maximizing cases) per vehicle. Although emissions costs from the P3 projects are lowest for the profit-maximizing cases, the system-wide emissions costs of these cases are highest because of spillover effects. Second, charging project owners for the emissions costs of P3 projects is not an effective way to reduce emissions or the total costs of travel, especially on a VMT basis. Instead, the public sector should implement emissions-included social cost-based price ceilings. When employing these limits, project owners could still be charged for the emissions costs. Finally, using total travel time as the only objective function for evaluating P3 projects can be misleading. Several P3 projects have shown better outcomes using total travel cost, and including emissions and fuel consumption costs instead of total travel time as the only objective function.