The North Tarrant Expressâ??the first of two privately-financed toll road megaprojects planned for North Texasâ??has reached financial close, achieving a major milestone for the $2 billion project. Michael Lindenberger at the Dallas Morning News reports:
North Texas' first private toll road took a big step toward completion Thursday, as a team of firms led by Spain-based toll road developer Cintra announced it had secured the financing needed for the $2 billion project in Tarrant County.
Construction of the 13-mile North Tarrant Express will begin by late 2010, and will eventually rebuild existing main lanes on stretches of Interstate 820 and State Highway 183, as well as add two new tolled lanes that will produce revenue for the firms for 52 years.
The project, also the first to install so-called managed lanes in the area, will feature a mix of rebuilt free lanes, improved frontage roads, and new paid lanes where the tolls will rise dramatically as traffic increases. [...]
Cintra's partners in developing the North Tarrant Express include Paris-based Meridiam Infrastructure, an investment fund established in 2006 to invest in privatized infrastructure projects, and the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System. Together, those entities provided the bulk of about $427 million in equity investment in the $2 billion project. The fire and police pension fund invested about $43 million, project spokesman Robert Hinkle said.
Despite the recession and tumultuous financial markets, infrastructure public-private partnerships (PPPs) are alive and well in the United States. North Tarrant is the third PPP in the highway sector to reach financial close this year, after the I-595 express lanes in Fort Lauderdale and Port of Miami Tunnel (see here for more on those projects).
With the growing realization among policymakers that PPPs like thisâ??a $2 billion project the state would not have otherwise been able to afford anytime soon, if everâ??allow governments to do get more bang for the transportation dollar, I'd expect that we'll see interest continue to spread, as I testified in Pennsylvania last week.