Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"Cintra also won the contract to develop the Trans-Texas Corridor in 2004."

TxDOT to Push for Cintra As Toll Road's Developer


by Jason Philyaw
The Bond Buyer
Copyright 2007

DALLAS — The Texas Department of Transportation will recommend Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte as the private developer for the State Highway 121 toll road to the Texas Transportation Commission at a meeting today.

The TTC oversees all the financing and construction efforts by TxDOT, which built part of SH 121 before determining last year the entire project should be opened as a toll road.

If approved by the commission, awarding of the deal to the Madrid-based toll-road construction firm must still clear various regulatory hurdles, including an environmental impact study and financial-closing conditions.

Cintra is one of the larger players in toll-road construction across Texas, as it also won the contract to develop the Trans-Texas Corridor in 2004.

Three firms competed for the right to build the toll road through Denton and Collin counties northwest of Dallas since last summer, when the TTC decided to allow a private firm to complete the road under a comprehensive development agreement, or CDA, which is what public-private partnerships are called in Texas.

In addition to Cintra, the other two firms that submitted proposals were Macquarie Infrastructure Group of Australia and Skanska Infrastructure Development of Sweden.

As part of its proposal, Cintra agreed to pay $2.8 billion to the Regional Transportation Council, a committee of the North Texas Council of Governments, for transportation projects across North Texas.

“This CDA will allow us to leverage scarce transportation funding to address critical transportation improvement needs in the region,” Michael Morris, director of transportation for the council of governments, said in a release. “The money from this CDA will allow us to build transportation improvements we could otherwise not afford.”

The public-private partnership, or P3, provides the funds for all the costs of developing, operating, and maintaining SH 121 and gives Cintra the right to collect tolls on the roadway for the next 50 years.

The U.S Department of Transportation in October authorized Texas to issue nearly $2 billion of tax-exempt private-activity bonds for the SH 121 project. Toll revenue would be used to repay the bonds.

SH 121 will be the first toll road in Texas under legislation proposed by Gov. Rick Perry and passed last year that authorizes the financing of Lone Star state roadways with toll revenue.

Collin and Denton counties are home to some of the fastest-growing communities in Texas.

The estimated 2007 population of Frisco, which is in western Collin County right near the county line with Denton, is about 93,000, representing an almost three-fold increase since 33,714 at the 2000 Census.

Roughly 25 miles to the west, the city of Denton’s population was 80,537 in 2000, but it is now more than 105,000 and expected to continue to climb by about 3% to 5% annually through 2010.

Denton County has added more than 100,000 residents since the 2000 Census and the population is projected to reach nearly 650,000 by 2010.

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