Local toll authority wins bid against Spanish firm in North Texas

| 6/29/2007

Toll revenue from a proposed road project will stay in Texas, state officials said Thursday.

The North Texas Tollway Authority bid $3.3 billion to edge out Spanish toll operator Cintra for the rights to build a 26-mile portion of the Texas State Highway 121 toll road in Denton and Collin counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The Texas Transportation Commission voted 4-1 Thursday, June 28, to accept a recommendation by the Dallas-area Regional Transportation Council that the project remain in local hands.

Commissioners had released a statement in February saying they favored Cintra – the Spanish toll operator that has a 50-percent stake in the Indiana Toll Road lease – which made a cash offer of $2.8 billion at the time for the Texas project.

But the North Texas Tollway Authority stepped up late in the process and offered to pay the Texas Department of Transportation $2.5 billion upfront and another $833 million in future payments – for a total of $3.3 billion – to finance, design, construct, operate and maintain the road.

The toll authority’s bid ensures that toll revenues remain in North Texas.

Transportation commissioners stated in a press release they believe the toll authority’s proposal meets the state’s goals to “reduce congestion, enhance safety, expand economic opportunity, improve air quality and increase the value of transportation assets.”

The authority has a 50-year history of constructing and operating toll roads in the Dallas region.

The authority must meet several DOT benchmarks to proceed with the project. The two parties must also agree on a length of contract.

As it stands, the tollway authority plans to open the first segment in the summer of 2008 and complete three remaining segments from 2010 through 2012.

Cintra remains a powerhouse in the Lone Star State. In December 2004, the Spanish company partnered with Austin-based Zachry Construction Corp. to commit to $6 billion in private dollars to build the proposed TTC-35 phase of the Trans-Texas Corridor between Dallas and San Antonio.

The first portion of the TTC-35 is a proposed $1.3 billion toll road from Austin to Seguin, TX.

– By David Tanner, staff writer