Sunday, September 26, 2004

TxDOT declines to release proposals by Trans Texas Express, Turner Collie & Braden, and Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte

Bidders' state corridor plans kept under wraps



Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2004

The Trans Texas Corridor Plan at this point may be mostly lines on a map and a gleam in the governor's eye.

But the 4,000-mile, $183.5 billion vision of broad swaths of roads and rail crisscrossing the state is realistic enough to heavy hitters in the transportation world to have drawn proposals from three coalitions of companies interested in building the Denison-to-Brownsville corridor.

Each corridor , according to the conceptual plan, would be 1,200 feet wide and eventually would include six highway lanes for cars, four lanes for large trucks, six rail lines and a corridor for utility lines.

The content of the proposals will remain a public mystery for the time being. The Texas Department of Transportation, citing the need to protect trade secrets of those seeking what is likely to be a multibillion-dollar contract, declined to release the three proposals, or even the executive summaries that it had requested from the bidders.

The agency earlier this year received an unsolicited proposal from Sugar Land-based Fluor Enterprises Inc., and four partners that are hoping to build the segment paralleling Interstate 35 for more than 500 miles. After that, the Transportation Department prepared and released a request for proposals from companies interested in bidding on the project.

That request drew two more proposals, which were turned in just before the Sept. 23 deadline.

The proposals came from: Trans Texas Express, based in Dallas, a consortium of 10 companies that includes Hensel Phelps Construction Co., engineering firm Turner Collie & Braden Inc., and law firm Vinson & Elkins LLP; and from Cintra, Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte SA, a Madrid, Spain, group with two partners.

The Transportation Department, which depends primarily on the state's 20-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax to fund its highway projects, has an annual budget of about $5 billion for construction and maintenance of the state's existing 79,000 miles of state and federal roads. Because that money is devoted to existing needs, the assumption has been that the Trans Texas Corridor projects could only be built with some combination of private money, borrowing through bonds that would be repaid through tolls, and other funding mechanisms.

Gaby Garcia, a spokeswoman for the department's Texas Turnpike Authority, said her agency likely will take several months to evaluate the three proposals and decide which of the bidders, if any, will make a short list and be asked to submit more detailed proposals.; 445-3698

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