Tuesday, July 03, 2007

TxDOT, Cintra look for NTTA to stumble

Little Time to Celebrate


Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2007

Leaders of the North Texas Tollway Authority must be ecstatic now that the Texas Transportation Commission has agreed to let them build the Texas 121 tollway in Denton and Collin counties.

Happy, that is, until they look at all the hard work they must do quickly in order to seal the deal.

The commission gave the tollway authority and the Regional Transportation Council just 60 days to iron out all of the details of a contract. Then NTTA will have just 45 more days to line up financing for the project. NTTA promised to give the RTC $2.5 billion upfront if it is allowed to build the project and collect tolls for 50 years.

If NTTA misses any deadlines, if contract negotiations snag or if terms for financing become a problem, the transportation commissioners will be only too happy to take the project away and give it to the Spanish company Cintra.

Cintra says it could start work on the tollway immediately. Cintra participated in the initial round of bidding on the Texas 121 project last year and appeared to have it locked up. Local legislators objected, and the bid process was reopened so that NTTA could participate.

RTC members worked through an exhaustive process in deciding that NTTA should build the project instead of Cintra. It was a victory for both the RTC and NTTA when the Transportation Commission agreed.

Now RTC and NTTA will be on opposite sides of the table as they work out specific responsibilities and tie them down in contract language. Each side has plenty of incentive to make the process work, but neither can afford mistakes.

The thought of Cintra waiting in the wings provides extra motivation to get things done right and to meet the deadlines. There is no time to lose.

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

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