ACS of Spain wins toll lane contract in South Florida

| 3/9/2009

The Florida DOT has solidified a plan for ACS Infrastructure Development of Spain to construct and manage tolled express lanes along a 10.5-mile portion of Interstate 595 in South Florida.

What separates this deal from other privatized infrastructure projects around the country is that the Florida Department of Transportation will set the toll rates and retain revenue.

Toll rates will vary depending on the flow of traffic and will be higher during peak periods of congestion, officials said. This is known as congestion pricing. The three new managed lanes will be reversible according to FDOT.

Toll revenue will be used to pay off a $603 million federal loan and for the state’s 35-year contract with ACS Infrastructure Development for construction, maintenance and management of the three new lanes. The total price tag is somewhere between $1.2 billion and $1.8 billion.

Construction will start in July and be completed in 2014.

Because the federal share is a loan and not a grant, and because truckers can opt not to use the tolled lanes, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association does not object to the proposal.

“This project does create new capacity and we like that,” said Mike Joyce, director of legislative affairs for OOIDA.

“We don’t like the fact that it’s tolled, but they need a revenue source to repay the federal loan. Truckers won’t be forced to use the tolled facility. It allows them the choice to use it or travel in the existing lanes.”

“At least the loan isn’t going to convert an existing road to a toll road,” Joyce added.

Without tolls and the federal loan, FDOT officials said the new lanes would have taken 15 years longer to construct.

“This is a landmark project for three reasons: It produces jobs, provides relief to our motorists on an accelerated timetable, and promotes innovative contracting solutions,” FDOT Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos said in a statement.

The Federal Highway Administration approved the use of federal funds in 2008 under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.

According to FDOT, the primary project consists of reversible express lanes in the median of I-595 in Broward County between I-75 and I-95.

Also included in the project according to FDOT are additional auxiliary lanes; the reconstruction of entrance/exit ramps; continuous connection of the State Road 84 frontage road between Davie Road and State Road 7; construction of sound barrier walls; and the implementation of an express east-west bus system.

Click here to access FDOT’s project Web site, which includes a video rendering of what the finished product will look like.

– By David Tanner, staff writer