Texas SH 130 toll road could default without action, Moody's says

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | Friday, June 20, 2014

A public-private partnership toll road that connects Austin and San Antonio as an alternative to Interstate 35 could default on its June 30 debt-service payment according to Moody’s Investor Service. The SH 130 Concession Co., owned by Cintra of Spain and Texas-based Zachry American Infrastructure, has insufficient cash to meet its obligations unless it gets a break from its lenders.

Moody’s says senior lenders are considering a move to allow the SH 130 Concession Co. to waive part of its June 30 payment and restructure its interest rates over the long term.

The SH 130 was constructed in phases totaling 130 miles. Segments 5 and 6 opened in 2012 at a cost of $1.36 billion. One of the lenders is the Federal Highway Administration through its TIFIA program, the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.

Traffic on the SH 130 has not lived up to projections.

Truckers aren’t keen on the $29 toll to bypass Austin, as evidenced by a pilot program that allowed trucks to temporarily pay the same rate as cars – $11. Truck traffic increased when the toll was lower but decreased again when the $29 toll was restored.

The Texas Department of Transportation recently increased the speed limit to 85 mph on a portion of the SH 130 in an effort to draw more cars.

Those actions have not been enough to keep agencies like Moody’s from downgrading the bond rating for the SH 130 Concession Company. That’s happened twice since April 2013.

SH 130 Concession Co. is contracted to operate the road and collect the tolls through the year 2062.

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