Texas postpones I-35E RFQ

The Texas Department of Transportation had planned to issue a request for qualifications for the $3.9bn public-private partnership last week, but has decided to take more time to evaluate the scope of the project.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDot) has delayed issuing a request for qualifications (RFQ) for the $3.9 billion I-35E highway construction and managed lanes project.

Ed Pensock, interim director of TxDot’s Turnpike Authority Division, said the regional agencies in the state, including the North Texas Tollway Authority, needed more time to evaluate the scope of the I-35E project, which involves the construction of 28 miles of managed lanes.

Pensock said TxDot now expects to issue an RFQ for the public-private partnership (PPP) later this autumn, though no specific deadline has yet been established.

TxDot issued a request for information (RFI) for the project in June, outlining a variety of possible funding structures for the PPP, for which the state has secured $592 million in public funds, according to the RFI. The RFI elicited responses from 11 groups whose members included Macquarie, toll road developer Cintra, infrastructure fund manager Meridiam, and UK developer Balfour Beatty.

TxDot originally planned to issue an RFQ for the project on August 31, according to the RFI, but issued an addendum in July in which TxDot said that it would postpone the procurement process until it completes discussions with the North Texas Tollway Authority about the project.

After issuing the RFI, TxDot was hoping to get input from the private developers about “what they thought might be doable” in terms of phasing the 28-mile project, according to Pensock. “We are going through some of that now with the region to try to see what is the appropriate scope,” he added.

The I-35E project was one of two PPPs for which TxDot issued a request for information in June, after new legislation enabled the state to consider pursuing such partnerships for 11 specific transportation projects. TxDot has also delayed issuing the RFQ for the Grand Parkway project, which involves constructing and operating 37 miles of a 180-mile ring road near Houston.