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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Transportation Commission Picks Developer for Texas Portion of I-69


AUSTIN - The Texas Transportation Commission today approved the staff recommendation for a proposal by Zachry American Infrastructure and ACS Infrastructure (ZAI/ACS) to develop the Texas portion of Interstate 69.

The proposed ZAI/ACS master plan would develop the southern section of U.S. Highway 77 to interstate standards without tolling that portion of the road. The proposal advances planning for I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), but additional commission action would be necessary before any construction could begin.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) selected the ZAI/ACS proposal over a proposal from Bluebonnet Infrastructure Investors. Both teams submitted proposals to TxDOT on March 26. The selection of ZAI/ACS for a development contract has no impact on TxDOT*s environmental study that will determine the route for I-69/TTC. TxDOT will also continue its plans for upgrading U.S. Highway 281 which, along with U.S. 77, has been designated by the federal government as a possible future route for I-69 in Texas.

"All of the planning work completed by ZAI/ACS will be done within the constraints spelled out by the Texas Transportation Commission and state law," said TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz. "We will develop I-69/TTC using existing highway facilities wherever possible, and we will operate within the guiding principles the Commission adopted in May. Today's action by the Transportation Commission made it clear that our focus will be on planning for the statewide corridor and on bringing Interstate 69 to Texas."

The contract will provide for ZAI/ACS to perform activities including the creation of a master development plan and master financial plan for the I-69/TTC project. The contract will also include the right of first negotiation for ZAI/ACS to perform work on certain projects. If TxDOT moves forward with the actual design, construction, financing, maintenance and operation of any specific projects identified in the master development plan, those projects will be governed by separate facility agreements that would require additional action by the Transportation Commission.

"This proposal gives us the best path to developing the long-awaited upgrades to U.S. 77 in South Texas and ultimately the I-69/TTC project," Saenz said. "The ZAI/ACS team's proposal would use existing road alignments and engage local leaders to help direct this project with minimal cost to the state."

Today's commission action allows TxDOT staff to negotiate a contract with ZAI/ACS. Once the contract between TxDOT and ZAI/ACS is signed, the two partners will begin work on a master development plan and master financing plan for I-69/TTC. In addition and concurrently, TxDOT and ZAI/ACS will develop a specific plan for upgrading U.S. Highway 77 from Brownsville to Corpus Christi as an eventual part of I-69/TTC. That planning work would cost no more than $5 million. The contract would not allow any construction or property acquisition except as subsequently approved by TxDOT and the Commission, and under the conditions set out in the contract.

"The ZAI/ACS proposal includes innovative plans that would finally extend the Interstate system into South Texas," said Transportation Commission Chair Deirdre Delisi. She noted that ZAI/ACS proposes coordinating with local authorities in the Rio Grande Valley and the Corpus Christi area to develop toll roads in South Texas that would help finance the initial segments of I-69/TTC without requiring tolls to be collected along long stretches of highway extending north from Cameron County.

"ZAI/ACS and TxDOT cannot develop their plans for the Texas portion of I-69 without input from the Corridor Advisory Committee and the Segment Advisory Committees," said Transportation Commissioner Ted Houghton. "ZAI/ACS has already reached out to local leaders to help craft their proposal, and this is a promising start. Solving our state's transportation challenges will require public awareness and public involvement."

ZAI/ACS proposes working with local authorities to construct and operate $1.5 billion worth of toll projects in South Texas that would generate revenue to develop U.S. Highway 77 to interstate standards.

The ZAI/ACS team is proposing to develop the West Loop and State Highway (SH) 550 / Five Mile Spur highway projects in Cameron County and the SH 358 Managed Lanes, SH 286 Managed Lanes, and Southside Mobility Corridor projects in Corpus Christi. In addition, ZAI/ACS proposes tolled reliever routes on U.S. 77 in the communities of Riviera and Driscoll.

ZAI/ACS proposes to develop these seven projects and use the toll revenues to help finance the sections of U.S. 77 that would be upgraded to interstate standards without the need for additional tolls on that highway.

Under the framework provided by SB 792 (80th Texas Legislature), the local toll roads proposed by ZAI/ACS could only be operated with the approval of local government entities. In its proposal, ZAI/ACS indicated that its team has already approached local leaders in South Texas about their interest in the plan. Although no agreements have been reached, discussions among community leaders, ZAI/ACS and TxDOT are expected to continue.

Transportation Commissioner Ned Holmes noted that while today's commission action was significant, important work remains for the I-69/TTC project. "TxDOT can now move forward with this consortium of private sector experts that will develop a comprehensive plan to determine what projects need to be built in the near term. We still have critical decisions to make with our local partners about how we will connect our cities and ports to this vital new corridor."

"This proposal moves us closer to building I-69/TTC. ZAI/ACS has shown that we can build this project while minimizing the need to purchase additional land and only limited, innovative tolling," said Commission Chair Deirdre Delisi. "We have heard from the public we should limit the amount of private property we need to acquire. We can accomplish this goal and virtually eliminate the need for tolls on the first leg of I-69/TTC in South Texas."

The ZAI/ACS proposal, including maps, is available on the internet at http://www.keeptexasmoving.com

What’s next:
-Negotiate final terms of master CDA
-Federal Highway Administration concurrence with award
-Attorney General concurrence with legal sufficiency
-Legislative Budget Board concurrence
-Submit CDA to State Audit Office
-12-18 month master planning process capped at $5 million

An executed agreement would not:
-Impact TxDOT’s environmental study that will determine the alignment of I-69/TTC
-Authorize construction
-Set toll rates or determine who does
-Eliminate competition for future services


SOURCE: Texas Department of Transportation

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, the presentations for Imagine Brownsville are now posted online.

Patricia A.

Thursday, June 26, 2008  
Blogger Melissa Zamora said...

I don't think the entire worshops were recorded. They appear to be abridged versions.

Thursday, June 26, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

China is a nation of 1.3 billion persons.

China will soon have as many automobiles on the road as the U.S.A.

The U.S.A. has been financing President G.W. Bush's war in Iraq by borrowing from certain foreign nations -- the current debt is somewhere between $600 billion and $1 trillion dollars.

China holds approximately 60% of that debt.

Prices for gasoline as you remember them are thing of the past.

In 2006, an individual close to this I-69 development program attended a meeting with certain Washington officials regarding its future development. She indicated that at that time, it was suggested, quite strongly, that real support for the program in Washington had evaporated.

Certainly you are aware that there are a number of parties who may seek to profit by securing contracts at the state level, even though the realities of the global situation no longer supports developments that require heavy reliance on nonrenewable fuels?

If there are airlines that are on the verge of extinction over rising fuel costs, what is it that would lead one to believe that the multi-billion dollar expenditures required to realize this fantasy will ever materialize?

It is suspected that this will be pooh-poohed at this site.

Thursday, June 26, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.latimes.com/news/la-fi-oil28-2008jun28,0,6590069.story?track=ntothtml

Read this article, and then think about the fantasy highway project. Imagine how many gallons of fuel it takes to get to or from Brownsville--then double it. For highway construction, especially a highway that's entire reason for existing is to facilitate transport of cheap manufactures (which just got more expensive to manufacture) to areas with a larger proportion of persons with higher disposable incomes (which higher fuel costs just eliminated), higher fuel costs are a death knell. Every cost associated with the cost-per-mile price of this white elephant balloons.

And, yes, white elephant. If it were not for the toll system that will be placed on some portions with an eye toward defraying maintenance costs for the whole system, TxDOT wouldn't come anywhere near this. Speaking of which, as I read it, tolls will not be restricted only to certain segments of this boondoggle, but will be applied to special use portions of the corridor in order to reduce costs that would ordinarily have to be assumed by TxDOT. There is no reason to assume that if costs are not met by the proposed tolls, additional revenue would be sought from other locations within the system.

High fuels costs are already altering the nature of global shipping, and there is no reason to expect that to change. This also reduces the attractiveness of the corridor's assumed benefit at the modality change zones--ports at Houston and Corpus Christi--as shipping costs reduce the volume of oceanic transport (NOTE: the Port of Brownsville is not considered as a viable modality change zone in this project).

Like NAFTA, this project is being sold on many levels. Regardless of how this all pans out, some things are obvious: Brownsville will never become a bustling international metropolis; this project is not about benefit to citizens or even communities, it’s intention is to facilitate the accumulation of even more wealth by the already wealthy. As the realities of rising fuel costs and global climate change continue to alter the shape of the world in which this effort took shape, its viability declines. If certain segments of the population of the United States would relinquish their clinging grip on a time when Mexico was a quaint colorful place to go lord it over the people of a disadvantaged third world country, and effective measures can be taken that will require Mexico to move more rapidly towards second or even first world status, then the social discrepancies that produce the volume of cheap exports designed to flow north on this proposed corridor will no longer exist. This will mean that one segment of Mexican society will lose significant income, and some of their viciously guarded status, as a real Mexican middle class rises. It will also mean that the billions of dollars to be spent on a highway project intended to further enrich a limited number of individuals could be better spent elsewhere.

Saturday, June 28, 2008  

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