News and Views

Richmond Times-Dispatch : Virginia awards contract for I-66 under new approach that saves state $2.5 billion

From Richmond Times-Dispatch
By Michael Martz and Robert Zullo

Virginia expects to save $2.5 billion in a public-private partnership contract that the state intends to award to a consortium to build express toll lanes and other improvements along 22.5 miles of Interstate 66 outside the Capital Beltway in Northern Virginia in order to relieve the worst traffic congestion in the state.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Thursday that the state had selected Express Mobility Partners — a consortium of Spanish multinational company Ferrovial; a subsidiary, Cintra; global investment and asset management firm Meridiam; and construction firm Allan Myers — to finance, design, maintain and operate the toll expressway under a 50-year concession.

The group was one of two bidders for the project under new rules for public-private transportation deals. The rules are meant to protect taxpayers from costly projects such as the failed attempt to build a toll expressway along U.S. 460 and the ongoing expansion of the Downtown and Midtown tunnels in Hampton Roads.

The consortium won the bidding war against the rival Transurban/Skanska team with an offer that includes a $500 million upfront payment to Virginia, as well as a commitment for $800 million in public transit improvements and $350 million in other transportation projects in the I-66 corridor over the life of the toll concession. Construction is expected to begin next year and be completed in 2022.

“Not one single cent of taxpayer money will be used to construct” the project, known as Transform 66, McAuliffe said in the announcement at the Capitol.

The agreement also will free up to $600 million in state and regional money that had been allocated as a potential contribution to the project, but no longer will be required to pay for improvements in the state’s highest-priority transportation project.

The administration and legislative allies say the deal vindicates their decision to overhaul the 20-year-old Public-Private Transportation Act last year to protect taxpayers from the risks and costs the state was saddled with under previous agreements on U.S. 460 and the Downtown-Midtown Tunnel project.

“We put accountability at the forefront of the process, which I think was lacking before,” said House Appropriations Chairman S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, who sponsored legislation to reform the public-private partnership, or P3, process to increase public oversight.

Read the full story from the Richmond Times-Dispatch. 

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