Texas mulls new road PPP, weighs I-35 response

The Texas Department of Transportation has earmarked a new highway project for a public-private partnership, while pushing ahead on its $4.7bn I-35 build-out.

Project-rich and better-budgeted, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is embarking on a freshly minted highway project while continuing to move forward on its Interstate 35 (I-35) project, a potential public-private partnership (PPP).

The latest prospective TxDOT PPP is the State Highway 288 (SH 288) project – an undertaking to relieve a “highly congested” Harris County corridor. A department spokeswoman told Infrastructure Investor that no financing model has been drawn up for the project, but did note a request for qualifications (RFQ) should come out by summer. She could not anticipate when the RFQ would be due.

The decision to proceed with the SH 288 project followed approval from the rulemaking Texas Transportation Commission, the spokeswoman explained, adding that the commission also gave TxDOT the go-ahead on a traditional design-build procurement for a second project, a possible reconstruction of “mobility-constrained” U.S. Route 290.

A January RFQ issued for the $4.7 billion I-35 project, meanwhile, garnered a strong private sector response. The department has issued a shortlist, comprising:

-AGL Constructors, teaming Archer Western Contractors, Granite Construction Company and the Lane Construction Company;

-Northern Link Constructors, a consortium of Balfour Beatty Infrastructure, Fluor Enterprises and Kiewit Infrastructure South Company;

-Dallas to Denton Constructors, pairing Zachary Construction Corporation with SNC-Lavalin Group;

-IH 35E Infrastructure, a consortium of Ferrovial, Webber and Texas Sterling Construction Company.

The RFQ called for a partner to “develop, design and construct, and to, potentially, finance” a 28-mile stretch of I-35, a busy thoroughfare from Denton, Texas to Dallas. The mandate also offered “optimal flexibility” in operating the project, and could amount to a 52-year toll road concession.

In February, the department gained $2 billion in additional funding after trimming its operating budget and re-analysing its federal funding stream. TxDOT said $1.6 billion of that newly accounted figure will be allocated statewide, while $400 million will be used for strategic partnership development.

TxDOT had been pursuing a PPP for the $1.4 billion Grand Parkway Project – also known as State Highway 99 – a 37-mile toll road in Houston, but by February had chosen a design-build model for the project.

The department is also evaluating a request for information (RFI) tally on a $900 million plan to ease congestion on State Highway 183 (SH 183), also known as the Airport Freeway.