Cintra, Meridiam win $1.6bn road project in Texas

The North Tarrant Expressway marks Cintra’s second toll road project in Texas and the second major concession the Spanish toll road developer has won in the past week. Paris-based Meridiam Infrastructure fund has a 25% interest in the winning consortium.

A consortium consisting of Spanish toll road developer Cintra and French infrastructure fund Meridiam Infrastructure have been selected as the winning bidder for the North Tarrant Express project in Northern Texas.

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The project involves planning, financing, designing, constructing, operating and maintaining a 13-mile stretch of highway in Texas’ Tarrant County, located northeast of Fort Worth. The existing freeway is to be rebuilt and two managed lanes will be added in each direction.

Managed lanes involve a variable toll that rises and falls with traffic to ensure that vehicles are able to travel through the road at a rate of 50 miles per hour.

The project represents a total investment of $2 billion and a concession period of 52 years. The initial construction is estimated to begin in 2010 and cost $1.6 billion, of which $600 million will come from gas tax dollars made available by the Texas Department of Transportation. Maintenance and operation of the highway after an estimated 5-year construction period is expected to cost an additional $450 million.

Cintra owns 75 percent of the winning consortium company and Paris-based Meridiam Infrastructure comprises the remaining 25 percent. Negotiations are under way for the Dallas Police & fire Pension System to acquire an approximately 10 percent stake from Cintra.

The North Tarrant express is one of three public-private partnerships in the toll road sector to be announced in Texas in the next month.

Last week, ACS- and Macquarie-led consortia emerged as shortlisted bidders for the $1.5 billion New LBJ project in Dallas. A decision on who will win that project is expected at the Texas Transport Commission’s next meeting on 26 February.

A decision on the winning bidder in the 14.4 mile DFW connector project near Dallas Fort Worth International Airport is also expected to be announced on that date. Shortlisted bidders include Gateway Connector Constructors, led by Fluor and Balfour Beatty Infrastructure; North Gate Constructors, led by Kiewit Texas Construction and Zachry Construction; and Trinity Infrastructure, led by Ferrovial Agroman and W.W. Webber.

If Cintra successfully closes on the North Tarrant Expressway, it will be the company’s second toll road concession in Texas. In June 2006, a 65 percent/35 percent consortium of Cintra and construction company Zachry American Infrastructure was awarded a concession for a 40-mile stretch of Texas’ state highway 130.

A third Cintra concession for state highway 121 was also awarded to Cintra but later taken away and given to the North Texas Tollway Authority.

North Tarrant also marks the second biggest toll road project awarded to Cintra in recent days. Last week, the company signed a concession agreement with the Polish government to build, finance and operate three sections of Poland’s A1 toll road between the cities of Strykow and Pyrzowice. That road will require a total investment of approximately €2.1 billion, €1.8 billion of which will cover construction costs.

Including North Tarrant Expressway and the A1 project in Poland, Cintra will manage a total of 25 toll roads: seven in Spain, five in Chile, four in the US, three in Portugal, two in Greece, two in Ireland, one in Poland and one in Canada.