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.comWhat’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 millionAn executed agreement would not:
-Impact TxDOT’s environmental study that will determine the alignment of I-69/TTC
-Set toll rates or determine who does
-Eliminate competition for future servicesSOURCE: Texas Department of Transportation