A consortium led by the U.S. subsidiary of Spanish toll-road developer Cintra will take on the Virginia Dept. of Transportation’s latest suburban Washington, D.C., express-lane project, winning the nod to build and manage 22 miles of improvements along the I-66 corridor outside the I-495 Capital Beltway.
According to a VDOT statement, Express Mobility Partners—which includes the firms Meridiam, Ferrovial Agroman US and Allan Myers Va. Inc.—will finance, design, build and maintain two full-time, dynamically priced toll lanes in each direction between the Beltway and Gainesville, Va., replacing existing peak-hour HOV lanes and retaining the three full-time open travel lanes.
VDOT estimates the project, including the 50-year operations concession, will total $2.5 billion.
The selection follows a reworking of VDOT’s P3 procurement process, which had been criticized for its lack of accountability and competition in several recent public-private awards. By retaining the option to pursue the I-66 project on its own, at an estimated initial cost of nearly $1 billion, VDOT says it achieved “far more financially competitive” bids.
In addition to requiring no up-front public funding, Express Mobility Partners’ financing plan includes an initial $500-million contribution toward additional transportation improvements in the I-66 corridor. During its 50-year concession, the consortium also will fund $800 million in transit service and contribute $350 million for other corridor work.
Transurban, VDOT’s partner for express-lane projects on the Capital Beltway and I-395/95 corridor, teamed with Skanska in an unsuccessful bid for the I-66 job, with a financing strategy that required a public subsidy. The company continues to move forward on an 18-mile extension of the I-95 express lanes south to Fredericksburg.
Plans call for the I-66 project to reach financial close in mid-2017, with the five-year construction phase to begin soon afterward.
The award is Cintra’s first win since it elevated Belen Marcos to head the company’s $8-billion U.S. portfolio, announced on Oct. 18.
Marcos most recently served as CEO of Cintra’s combined three-project operations in the Dallas area—the North Tarrant Express, LBJ Express and construction of the NTE 35W project. Alberto Gonzalez will replace Marcos as CEO of the three projects. He previously served as deputy CEO.
According to Cintra, the LBJ Express opened ahead of schedule in 2015 and "has been described by the Texas Department of Transportation as the most comprehensive, complex project of its type in the country."
She takes over from Nicolas Rubio, who was promoted to be Cintra’s global operations director, based in Madrid, according to a company statement. The company says its global portfolio includes 1,200 miles of managed highway miles that represents more than $21.6 billion in road improvement investment.
But its portfolio also includes a spate of underperforming toll-road operations and maintenance concessions, such as the Chicago Skyway and the Indiana Toll Road. Earlier this year, the Cintra co-owned company responsible for operating state Highway 130, near Austin, Texas, filed for bankruptcy, citing lower-than-expected toll revenue.