Outer Banks toll bridge development agreement signed with likely toll concessionaire ACS

April 29, 2009
By Peter Samuel

North Carolina Turnpike Authority (NCTA) signed a project development agreement today with an ACS-led group that gives them a right of first refusal on building the Outer Banks' Mid-Currituck bridge as a longterm toll concession. Environmental permitting is under way. The development group will bear the bulk of the costs of remaining project development including:

- completion of route selection and other environmental, engineering and design studies

- environmental mitigation design

- right of way and utility assessments

- obtaining regulatory approvals

- capital cost estimates

- toll market research and strategies

- a traffic and revenue study

- financial assessment

Depending on the results the Turnpike may drop the project or negotiate a longterm concession agreement with the group.

The group's work on project development of projects like this usually runs $5m to $10m - no $-figure is mentioned in connection with this project. This investment gives them the right of first refusal on a possible or likely subsequent concession but the development 'partner' risks the project falling through or being unable to come to a satisfactory concession agreement with NCTA.

 The group led by a leading Spain based international toll developer and operators ACS with its subsidiaries Dragados and Iridium, together with a US-Canadian engineering firm Lochner MMM won the development agreement and potential concession in competition with:

- Bechtel, the US-based international construction firm

- Hochtief, Bilfinger Berger, Germany based constructors and tollers

- Skanska, Parsons, European/north American constructors/concessionaires and California based US-wide engineers

In the ACS-led group called Currituck Development Group other team members are:

- its subsidaires Iridium and Dragados,

- US bridge constructors Traylor Bros and Weeks Marine,

- Arup traffic and revenue,

- Planning Communities LLC public outreach

(ACS, based in Spain is a large tollroad builder and operator internationally and is unrelated to the ACS based in Dallas TX which does customer service for E-ZPass and other toll systems work strictly in the US.)

Official statement

A statement issued by NCTA quotes North Carolina Transportation Secretary Gene Conti, Chairman of the Turnpike Authority Board of Directors:

“This is a historic moment for transportation financing in North Carolina. With today’s contract execution we are creating a partnership between a progressive state entity and a private consortium to harness the efficiencies and financial capabilities of the private sector to deliver major transportation infrastructure for our state.”

The statement quotes Juan Santamaria, with ACS Infrastructure Development, Inc:

“The Currituck Development Group is honoured to partner with the North Carolina Turnpike Authority on the development of this important project. Not only will the Mid-Currituck Bridge help to reduce traffic congestion in the region, but it will also lead to important job creation in the State.”

David Joyner executive director of NCTA is quoted:

"Today’s agreement is the culmination of more than a year of work by Turnpike Authority staff. Public-private partnerships are an entirely new project deliver strategy for North Carolina, and we look forward to working with the Currituck Development Group to make the Mid-Currituck Bridge a reality.”

The Mid-Currituck Bridge is to be a 2-lane toll crossing mostly causeway style construction approximately 11km (7-miles) long, making it the longest bridge in North Carolina. It would provide a new fixed link between barrier islands/peninsulas called the Outer Banks across the Currituck Sound connecting the Currituck mainland at US158 near Aydlett with NC12 on the Outer Banks south of Corolla.  The Outer Banks are a major beach recreation area just south of Tidewater Virginia and within weekend driving distance of the Washington DC/Baltimore and Philadelphia metro areas.

The Mid Currituck Bridge would:

- save up to 80km (50 miles) of driving to some locations along the Atlantic coast,

- provide a second alternate and additional crossing to the existing Point Harbor crossing at the southern end of the Outer Banks and 42km (26 miles) south of the site for the Mid-Currituck Bridge.

The development agreement work is planned to be complete in about 18 months for negotiations on a construction agreement/toll concession to be conducted in the autumn/fall of 2010.

Construction of the Mid-Currituck Bridge could begin late 2010 and open to traffic in 2013.

Earlier the cost of the project including some road construction on both sides was $650m.

On ACS see http://www.grupoacs.com

project documents:

http://www.ncturnpike.org/projects/Mid_Currituck/documents.asp

draft development agreement:

http://www.ncturnpike.org/pdf/Mid-Currituck%20PDA.pdf

A concessioning public toll authority

NCTA is a state toll authority which is planning a number of traditional public toll operations the most advanced of which is the all-electronic tolled Triangle Expressway in the Raleigh metro area.  However NCTA plans to study some toll projects as concessions in which Mid Currituck is the first.

NOMENCLATURE: In some places this Mid-Currituck agreement is misleadingly referred to as a "pre-development agreement." It is an agreement to develop the project and therefore a "development agreement" or "project development agreement." It could also be called a "pre-concession agreement" because the project development work comes before the concession agreement which would generate financing, construction, operations, maintenance and tolling.

CORRECTION: an early version mistakenly reported that route selection was complete.

TOLLROADSnews 2009-04-29 CORRECTION 2009-04-30 7:20


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