Colorado issues RFQ for I-70 East project

CDOT has issued an RFQ for the first phase of the project just a month after deciding that a DBFOM model would be the preferred method for delivering the $1.8bn PPP.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for the first phase of the I-70 (Interstate 70) East project, which involves expanding a 12-mile segment of the highway.

The RFQ comes just one month after the state agency decided the design-build-finance-operate-maintain (DBFOM) model was the best way to procure the project “because of its ability to transfer more risk to the private sector in several key areas including the long-term costs of maintaining the corridor,” CDOT had said in a statement in February.

The project, in addition to adding two managed toll lanes, also includes reconstructing a portion of the highway, removing an existing viaduct and building a landscape highway ‘cover’ above one segment of the reconstructed highway. This cover “would physically reconnect a divided neighborhood,” CDOT stated in the RFQ.

Those interested in submitting statements of qualifications (SOQs) have until June 22 to do so. The state agency expects to announce shortlisted teams that will be invited to participate in the Request for Proposals (RFP) stage in late July, while a preferred bidder is expected to be announced in late summer/early fall of 2016.

According to the RFQ, the private developer will fund the balance of the amount required that is not covered by public funding through a combination of private financing, a TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) loan and private activity bonds (PABs). CDOT, which is procuring the project in partnership with the Colorado Bridge Enterprise and the High-Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE) – government entities within CDOT – has already begun the application process for PABs on behalf of the future developer.

Colorado is not the only state considering procuring its section of I-70as a public-private partnership (PPP; P3). Running east to west and spanning 2,151 miles across 10 states, the I-70 was built between 1956 and 1965.

Missouri has also been exploring tolling options to improve and expand its portion of I-70. Last December, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon instructed the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission to explore the use of tolls for upgrading the highway.

“In MoDOT’s [Missouri Department of Transportation] current financial condition, with no indication that additional revenue is expected at either the federal or state levels, the use of tolling as a revenue source for the reconstruction and expansion of I-70 is worthy of consideration,” the Commission wrote in its report.

Nixon is reviewing the report, which “moving forward […] will help facilitate an informed, robust discussion about meeting our most pressing transportation infrastructure needs in a way that benefits all Missourians,” he said in a statement.