Virginia Names Private-Sector Team to Finance, Build I-66 Express Lanes Project

AASHTO Journal, 10 November 2016

Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Virginia has selected a private partnership called Express Mobility Partners to completely pay for, build and operate express toll lanes for 50 years on east-west Interstate 66, in an intensely congested area of northern Virginia outside the nation’s capital beltway.

The Virginia Department of Transportation is expected to sign a comprehensive agreement with the team in early December, with its financial close in mid-2017. That would allow construction to begin in 2017, on schedule to see the express lanes opening to traffic in mid-2022, VDOT said.

The work will include multimodal improvements to 22.5 miles of the I-66 corridor from I-495 in Fairfax County to University Boulevard in Prince William County. It will produce two express lanes alongside three regular lanes in each direction, with space in the median for future transit.

capitol0816.jpgIt will include 13 new and improved transit routes, more than 4,000 new park-and-ride spots and corridor-wide bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvements.

The announcement said the plan “will require zero public investment and will actually result in an upfront payment from Express Mobility Partners of $500 million to fund additional improvements in the corridor. Additionally, the comprehensive agreement will require Express Mobility Partners to pay $800 million for transit service in the corridor and $350 million in other projects to improve the I-66 corridor over the next 50 years.”

Express Mobility Partners is a consortium of companies – Cintra, Meridiam, Ferrovial Agroman US and Allan Myers VA – which will finance, design, build, maintain and operate the project under the state’s Public-Private Transportation Act.

“This project will transform travel in the I-66 corridor and pave the way for additional multimodal options that will reduce congestion and commute times,” said McAuliffe.

He said it “will benefit Virginia’s economy and our quality of life and it will be built at a $2.5 billion net savings for taxpayers” through the P3 process, compared with earlier estimates that would have included a hefty state investment.

McAuliffe said the state had reformed its P3 process, and then his administration announced it was willing to finance, build and operate the entire project without a private partner. After that, “Virginia received two bids that were far more financially competitive” than an original analysis, the announcement said.

Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne said that “Virginia has learned the lessons of previous poorly negotiated projects and established a P3 process that is more competitive, transparent and accountable. Those reforms have strengthened Virginia’s negotiating position for this project and resulted in a significantly better deal for taxpayers.”

Said VDOT Commissioner Charlie Kilpatrick: “VDOT has a strong track record in working with the private sector through the complexities of delivering a massive project safely, on time and on budget. The public will have more travel options and a reliable trip on I-66 outside the Beltway. We have worked extensively on the environmental study of this project, so we have the right project that will yield the greatest benefits.  We are ready to deliver.”

Under the agreement, Express Mobility Partners will have the right to collect and set dynamic tolls on the 66 Express Lanes for 50 years. The private partners will pay the state $500 million at the financial close as a concession payment, and provide the other investments over the life of the contract.

The state did agree to compensate the partnership if the region’s commuter transit rail system is extended during the next 10 years in that corridor, or if additional general purpose highway lanes are added to I-66 in the project limits. But it said “neither project is likely to happen within that time frame.”

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