Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Cintra, now calling itself "Bluebonnet Infrastructure Investors" competes with its TTC-35 partner to build TTC-69

Two groups will fight for TTC-69 contract

June 13,2006

Elizabeth Pierson
The Monitor
Copyright 2006

AUSTIN – Two groups of companies have submitted proposals with the state to build and operate the Trans-Texas Corridor 69, the giant interstate system that will run for 600 miles from northeast Texas to Mexican border.

One team is calling itself Bluebonnet Infrastructure Investors and is led by Cintra, a company based in Spain. The other is led by Zachry American Infrastructure Inc., a San Antonio company.

Each hopes to convince the Texas Department of Transportation they are most qualified to build an interstate highway from northeast Texas to the border, possibly the Rio Grande Valley. They must also make plans to eventually build rail lines and utility infrastructure along the same corridor.

The interstate portion alone is expected to cost between $12 billion and $15 billion, said Gaby Garcia, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Transportation.

Some portions may include toll roads whose proceeds will go to the private companies to pay for the project. State transportation officials developed the idea because there are not enough state funds to pay for needed roads.

Cintra and Zachry are competing for TTC-69, but are working together on another mega-transportation project in Texas, the Trans-Texas Corridor 35, which will run from the Oklahoma border to Laredo.

Details of the proposals each company submitted last week for TTC-69 are considered proprietary and are not being released, Garcia said.

TxDOT staff members will evaluate each proposal to make sure the companies are qualified and have a solid plan, she said.

"At this point, all they submit is a (proposal) showing that they have experiences in these types of mega projects and they have some general idea of how they want to develop and finance this project," Garcia said.

It is the first step in perhaps a year-long process to choose the developer for TTC-69, Garcia said. By July, staff members will tell the TxDOT commission whether one, both or neither of the groups are qualified.

The commissioners will receive more detailed plans from the qualified group or groups, then choose the developer by late 2007, Garcia said.

The exact route of TTC-69 to the border has yet to be determined. The leg could go to either the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo or both, Garcia said.

If it comes to the Valley, the route will be either along existing Highway 77, Highway 281 or a new path about 20 miles west of Highway 281. Environmental studies being conducted on each of those three routes now will help determine which is used, Garcia said.

Even if TTC-69 ends in Laredo, the Valley will have significant highway upgrades. Garcia said that’s why TxDOT placed signs announcing the future home of Interstate 69 along highways 77 and 281, to let Valley residents know the state is serious about upgrades on those roads.

"Somehow, the Valley as a whole will need additional improvement for their infrastructure and handling international trade that’s coming into their ports," Garcia said.

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