Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"State lawmakers complained that the TxDOT was too aggressively courting private toll-road investment."

Agency makes tollway bid


Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2007

PLANO -- The North Texas Tollway Authority has sweetened its offer to take over building and expanding Texas 121 in Denton and Collin counties and start building several other toll projects within five years -- including several in Tarrant County.

The proposal appears to outgun the private Spanish firm Cintra, which initially was awarded the Texas 121 project and was blasted by those who don't want foreign control of toll roads.

NTTA, a state agency, was allowed to submit its 11th-hour proposal after state lawmakers complained that the Texas Department of Transportation was too aggressively courting private toll-road investment.

NTTA, if awarded the Texas 121 project, has agreed to contribute $2.5 billion upfront for the region to spend on other non-toll projects, plus $833 million spread over 49 years.

By comparison, Cintra originally offered to pay $2.1 billion upfront and $700 million over 49 years.

NTTA also pledged Monday to invest $1.3 billion in improvements to its existing tollway system and to begin work on five other toll projects within five years:

  • Southwest Parkway, aka Texas 121T, in Tarrant and Johnson counties. Construction in Fort Worth will begin this year.
  • Texas 360 in Tarrant, Johnson and Dallas counties, including a connection to the planned Texas 161 toll road.
  • Texas 170 from Roanoke to Parker County.
  • President George Bush Turnpike, eastern extension into Garland.
  • Trinity Parkway, Dallas.
"Yes, we can do it. Yes, we can finance it," said NTTA board member Jack Miller of Denton. "Not only can we build this project and the other projects, but it strengthens our system."

On Monday, the NTTA board voted unanimously, with Fort Worth member Bill Meadows absent, to submit its plan to the Regional Transportation Council by May 25. The plan would also need to be approved by the Texas Department of Transportation.

NTTA would borrow the money and repay much of it through 40-year bonds.

Officials at Cintra's Austin office declined Monday to comment on NTTA's action.

Gordon Dickson, 817-685-3816

© 2007 Fort Worth Star-Telegram: www.star-telegram.com

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