Friday, December 12, 2003

TxDOT and Corridor Builders release TTC proposal summaries

Trans Texas Corridor proposal summaries released

December 12, 2003

by David Guenthner

The Lone Star Report
Volume 8, Issue 16
Copyright 2003

The Texas Department of Transportation this week released the executive summaries from the three proposals it received to develop the first Trans Texas Corridor.

The three proposal groups are from Trans Texas Express, LLC; Fluor Enterprises, Inc.; and Cintra, Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A. The Trans Texas Express and Fluor groups have offices in Texas, while Cintra is based in Madrid, Spain.

The Lone Star Report was among three media outlets that requested Trans Texas Corridor-related documents immediately following the Sept. 23 submission deadline. However, TxDOT determined that all of the actual proposals and one of the executive summaries contained proprietary information that they were required to withhold from public release.

The attorney general’s office ruled on Dec. 5 that TxDOT was required to withhold all information save that “regarding the proposed project location, scope, and limits” and “information regarding the private entity’s qualifications, experience, technical competence, and capability to develop the project.” That allowed for the release of the executive summaries, although five paragraphs on financing specifics had to be redacted from the Cintra release.

Some highlights from the respective proposals:

Trans Texas Express (TTEX): The two principal partners in this group are Hansel Phelps Construction Co. (construction) and Chiang, Patel & Yerby, Inc. (transportation engineering). First Southwest Company and Vinson & Elkins will be involved in project financing. Wilbur Smith Associates will be the traffic consultant, and Corgan Associates will be the architect. Other civil engineering firms involved include Turner Collie & Braden, KBR Infrastructure (a Halliburton subsidiary), Lockwood Andrews & Newnam, and DMJM+HARRIS.

TTEX envisions extending the main corridor from Denison to Laredo, with a branch from Central Texas through the Bryan/College Station area to Houston. While the latter is not designated a priority section by TxDOT, TTEX included it because analysis concluded that “current truck traffic is insufficient to sustain financial feasibility of the Laredo segment as a standalone project.”

But the main distinguishing characteristic of this proposal is its preference for Construction Management at Risk over a pure design-build approach. TTEX would utilize design-build for “smaller critical sections,” but much of the project would be designed by the TTEX firms and then put out for competitive bid. TTEX states that the Texas Council of Engineering Companies and Associated General Contractors – two associations that may oppose the corridor initiative – will support their implementation approach.

Finally, the TTEX proposal estimates that full development of the corridor will take at least 20 years, but with timely approvals and decisions by TxDOT the truck tollway – consisting of two limited-access truck lanes in each direction – can be completed within seven years. Latter phases of the project would include separate passenger vehicle tollways, cargo and passenger rail, and the utility corridor.

Fluor: Fluor Enterprises, one of the world’s largest infrastructure firms, is the linchpin of this group. Fluor is a principal in Lone Star Infrastructure, the consortium that is developing SH 130 in the Austin-San Antonio area under the state’s first design-build contract. Fluor also submitted the unsolicited proposal last December that became the basis for TxDOT’s request for proposals on this particular corridor.

Parsons Brinkerhoff is the lead designer and will select local firms to assist as needed on particular projects. Goldman Sachs is in charge of financing. Vollmer Associates will produce the traffic and revenue studies for the project. Edelman has been retained to handle public outreach – the only public relations firm listed as a partner on any of the three proposals.

The Fluor summary focuses mainly on the qualifications and past projects of its partners. The Fluor proposal includes a main alignment from Denison to McAllen, with spurs connecting to IH-35 southwest of San Antonio, the Port of Corpus Christi, and Brownsville. It also adds a segment connecting Laredo to the Port of Corpus Christi – a regional mobility authority has already been proposed to develop that segment.

Cintra: This Spanish consortium is owned 60 percent by Grupo Ferrovial, which has the second largest market cap of any European construction firm, and 40 percent by Macquarie Infrastructure Group, the world’s third largest private infrastructure developer. Cintra has the second most private highway concessions in the world, with nearly 900 miles of roads in its 15 concessions. Cintra is negotiating with other partners to join its consortium on this project.

The Cintra proposal included the most specifics, even after the financing paragraphs were redacted. Cintra explained its thought process in developing its phasing scenario and even listed its proposed order for developing the project. The early phases of the project focus on taking the roadways from San Antonio north – truck lanes would connect San Antonio and Dallas and passenger vehicle lanes would go as far north as Waco before the first segment of freight rail opens. The Corpus Christi/Brownsville roadway segments would bring up the rear, being built after high-speed passenger rail service had been deployed between San Antonio and Dallas. O

The Lone Star Report: