If it proves financially viable and environmentally acceptable, a team of Fluor Corp., Aliso Viejo, Calif., and Australian firm Transurban will begin a $900-million project to add two high-occupancy toll lanes in each direction on a 14-mile segment of Virginia's Capital Beltway as soon as 2006. The private venture would contribute at least 15 percent of total funding and build the project under a design-build-operate-maintain contract, counting on toll revenues to pay off the costs. VDOT thus incurs no financial risk in the construction.

Virginia Dept. of Transportation Commissioner Philip Shucet announced the signing of a comprehensive agreement with Fluor Enterprises, Inc. and Transurban (USA) Inc. to improve Interstate 495 in Northern Virginia on April 29.  Fluor originally submitted an unsolicited proposal in 2002, followed by a more comprehensive plan in 2003 (ENR 12/04/p.24). The comprehensive agreement, signed under the Public-Private Transportation Act (PPTA), would also incorporate the $85-million Phase 8 of the $650-million Springfield Interchange project by adding a carpool connection to the beltway from I-95/I-395.  HOT lanes would be free to carpoolers, buses and emergency vehicles.  All others would pay a variable-priced toll to use the lanes.  Large trucks would not be allowed to use HOT lanes.  

When the initial proposal came in, " the commissioner met with the private sector partners and asked that they find out if they could fund the project with no public contributions," says Malcolm Kerley, VDOT chief engineer. "In October, they wrote me and acknowledged that Transurban came in to work with them. They are committed by the agreement to invest at least 15 percent of the total project cost." Herb Morgan, vice president of operations for Fluor, says the Transurban agreed to shoulder the shortfall, estimated at anywhere from $90 million to $230 million depending on the final contract structure.

The traffic and revenue study currently underway by Vollmer Associates, New York City, will cost about $1.5 million, says Morgan. It is due Oct. 28. Moreover, the Federal Highway Administration is reviewing a draft environmental impact statement, he says. Kerley notes that initial rights-of-way acquisition estimates called for some 300 homes to be taken, but the private team has proposed to reduce that to the single digits.

Morgan says that the final contract agreement will either have a more traditional design-build setup, with Fluor handling design and construction and Transurban doing the operation and maintenance, or it may take the form of a concessionaire agreement. Fluor plans to partner with Transurban on other similar public-private opportunities in Virginia and Texas.