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San Juan set to get light rail PPP rolling

The capital of Puerto Rico is out to make good on a longstanding $400m light rail project and has picked Macquarie and Mayer Brown to assist.

San Juan is embarking on a highly touted light rail project, and is counting on Macquarie Group and law firm Mayer Brown to handle its procurement.

The capital of Puerto Rico appointed Macquarie investment banking unit Macquarie Capital and Mayer Brown in a press announcement last week.

Both Macquarie and Mayer Brown have a longstanding relationship with the government of Puerto Rico, having helped the US province in a sweeping effort to privatise its public infrastructure.

Macquarie, based in Australia, abetted the Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnership Authority (PPPA) in developing its public-private partnership (PPP) programme – a campaign that has resulted in a toll road concession, privatisation of an international airport, as well as a social infrastructure project.

Mayer Brown, meanwhile, has also served a crucial role in providing legal advice to the PPPA in its toll road deal and airport privatisation. The PPPA, established in 2009, spearheaded the toll road concession, Puerto Rico Highway 22 (PR-22), as well as the leasing of Luis Munoz Marin International Airport.

In addition, Mayer Brown has experience in light rail project finance. The Chicago firm is involved with the FasTrack Eagle light rail PPP in Denver.

The government of San Juan did not respond to a request for additional comment. The PPPA, headed by executive director David Alvarez, is not involved in the envisioned light rail project.

San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini has been outspoken in promoting the light rail project, dubbed the San Juan Automated Urban Transit System, or SATOUR.

Santini has been talking up SATOUR as far back as 2010 as part of a wider, $3 billion infrastructure makeover in San Juan to better accommodate business as well as tourism.

SATOUR itself is estimated to cost $400 million, and would be a six mile tram. Further detail concerning financing of the project has not been worked out.

Macquarie and Mayer Brown will oversee a request for qualifications (RFQ) and request for proposals (RFP). No timeframe for the procurement process has been established.