Monday, June 27, 2005

Cintra/Zachry asks FHA for a $320 million loan.

Loan may fund part of SH 130

Contractor seeks government help

June 27, 2005
By Kurt Johnson
Taylor Daily Press, Copyright 2005

The contractor that signed an agreement with the state to build part of the Trans-Texas Corridor has sent a letter to the Federal Highway Administration inquiring about a $320 million loan.

That inquiry comes despite promises the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) would be built without using tax dollars.

According to the letter, Cintra/Zachry, the consortium that has a contract with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to build the massive transportation project, is seeking the loan in order to build the 42-mile extension of SH 130 from Austin to Seguin. In addition to that leg of the toll road, preliminary plans for the TTC include a proposal to build a rail and utility pipeline corridor east of SH 130 through the Taylor and Coupland areas.

Gabriel Garcia, a spokesperson for TxDOT, said the commitment by Gov. Rick Perry and TxDOT not to use taxpayer dollars for the TTC was intended to refer only to state funding.

"In saying that tax dollars would not be used, we only looked at state funding," Garcia said.

According to Rosanna Salazar, a spokesperson for Cintra/Zachry, the letter sent to the Federal Highway Administration is a "normal process" for seeking funding for major projects.

Kathy Walt, spokesperson for Perry, said the funding sought by Cintra/Zachry would be a loan and not a grant.

"It would be repaid with interest," Walt said.

Mike Sizemore, a spokesman for state Sen. Ken Armbrister of Victoria, questioned whether Cintra/Zachry's solicitation of a federal loan breaks the commitment made regarding how the TTC would be funded.

"The whole thing (TTC) was touted as using private funds," Sizemore said.

In addition to seeking the loan from the federal government, Cintra/ Zachry filed a lawsuit in Austin last Friday seeking to keep its contract with TxDOT to build the TTC from being released under the Texas Open Records Act.

On May 31, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled that portions of the 200-page development agreement between Cintra/Zachry and the state should be released in response to requests from several Texas newspapers. Cintra/Zachry claims in its lawsuit that the development and financial plans in the agreement can remain confidential under state law.

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