Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Conversion disorder: US 281 to be bulldozed and rebuilt as a toll road.

Design/build team selected for U.S. Highway 281 toll project

May 14, 2008

San Antonio Business Journal
Copyright 2008

The Alamo Regional Mobility Authority Board of Directors on Wednesday selected Cibolo Creek Infrastructure JV to serve as the design/builder for the 281 North Toll Project.

The value of the contract is $330 million and it will be paid for by a combination of public funds from the Texas Mobility Fund, money generated from the sale of toll revenue-backed bonds and financing from the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), a U.S. Department of Transportation loan program, says the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority's (Alamo RMA) spokesman Leroy Alloway.

However, this amount does not include the cost of acquiring all of the right-of-way needed to proceed with the project, Alloway says.

Once the toll lanes are complete, the money generated from drivers on the lanes will pay off the debt on the project. Drivers will pay 17 cents per mile and will be charged through the use of a toll tag on their vehicles. Drivers will be able to use this same tag on toll roads in Austin, Houston and Dallas because the systems will be interoperable, Alloway says.

People who do not have a toll tag will be charged through a video billing system. Video cameras aligned along the toll route will track a vehicle's license plate number and send the person's toll charge through the mail. Drivers will not have to carry cash or coins to pay their tolls.

Alamo RMA wants to begin construction on two to three new "non-toll" lanes along U.S. Highway 281 from Loop 1604 to Stone Oak Parkway possibly as early as this fall.

The next phase of the project will involve building out new "non-toll" lanes from Stone Oak Parkway to the Comal County line along Highway 281, Alloway says. In all, Cibolo Creek Infrastructure will be building new highway lanes along a 7.9 mile route.

Once the non-toll lanes are complete, the Alamo RMA's contractors will build three new toll lanes in each direction. Cibolo Creek has committed to complete the project in 44 months after construction begins.

Cibolo Creek Infrastructure is owned by joint venture partners Fluor Enterprises Inc. and Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc. Atlanta-based Balfour Beatty is an engineering, construction, services and investment business. Fluor Enterprises is an engineering and construction services firm based in Dallas.

The other team members are HDR Engineering Inc., Raba-Kistner Consultants, Guerra DeBerry Coody, Donze Lopez Public Affairs, Vickery & Associates Inc., Bain Medina Bain, AIA Engineers Ltd. and Pinnacle Consulting Management Group Inc.

Alamo RMA officials say this approach is not a concession or a private sector model and the Alamo RMA will retain ownership and operations of the toll project.

"This has been an open and transparent process," Alamo RMA Chairman William Thornton says. "The Alamo RMA has ensured the highest possible value for our community and we will see this needed roadway constructed in the shortest possible time through the use of the design build approach."

The widening and expansion of U.S. Highway 281 using toll lanes will be the first official toll project in Bexar County.

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