Foreign company to build toll road in Texas

| 12/20/2004

A company from Spain has been hired by the Texas Transportation Commission to build a multibillion-dollar toll road through the heart of Texas.

The commission, which oversees the Texas Department of Transportation, announced the contract with Cintra – an international group of engineering, construction and financial firms – on Dec. 16. In a statement, TxDOT said it chose the firm’s plan over two other competing bids because “the Cintra proposal provided the best long-term value to the state.”

The company will lead an effort to build the Oklahoma-to-Mexico portion of the Trans-Texas Corridor, including a $6 billion toll road between Dallas and San Antonio, which is planned for completion by 2010, and $1.2 billion in additional transportation improvements between Oklahoma and Mexico.

The entire project would be funded privately, with no state money involved.

The plan was floated as a way to relieve congestion on Interstate 35, which carries a significant amount of truck traffic and other vehicles north from the border to such states as Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and points north. The interstate terminates at Laredo, TX, at a major border crossing with Mexico.

The Dallas to San Antonio toll road would be a four-lane, divided highway 316 miles long.

In addition, part of the plan calls for separate lanes for cars and trucks on some highways, including state Highway 130.

Cintra’s full name is Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte SA, according to The Austin American-Statesman. Known primarily as a toll road operator, the firm will work with San Antonio-based Zachry Construction Corp. on the Texas project.

A Cintra official told the newspaper that toll rates would be similar to those on other Texas toll roads – 10 and 20 cents a mile for passenger cars and three to four times that for large trucks.

While the project – in hiring a foreign firm – is a first in modern times, it is not unprecedented. The first and perhaps most famous road in Texas history was El Camino Real, which connected what was then the northernmost part of Mexico with points south. It was also constructed by the Spanish – just over 400 years ago.