TxDOT asking for proposals for upgrade of US77 Victoria to Brownsville as part of TTC69 bid
By Peter Samuel
A TxDOT letter formally requesting detailed proposals asks Trans Texas Corridor 69 bidders to focus on upgrade to interstate expressway standard of US77 in the far south of corridor. Phillip Russel director of the turnpike division writes in the letter (download here) that the department has assigned a high priority to the upgrade and has "identified the US 77 Facility as the first Near-Term Facility to be developed under the I-69/TTC Comprehensive Development Agreement."
I-69TTC seems to be the new name for what TxDOT previously called TTC-69, perhaps de-emphasizing the Trans Texas Corridor label, and returning to the less threatening I-69 moniker?
I-69TTC runs from the Rio Grande border areas by Corpus Christi and just inland from the Gulf Coast then swings by the west and north of Houston and runs up the eastern border of Texas with connections to Shreveport LA and to Texarkana in the far northeast of the state.
Under the moratorium on private sector toll concessions passed by the state legislatiure in the summer TTC69 has an exemption for projects from Rugerio County south, which puts the concession border at the San Antonio River a bit southwest of Victoria.
This allows toll concessions on about 275km (170 miles) of US77 between the river and the Mexico border.
This is about a quarter of the length of the I-69TTC corridor, generally put at 1,050km (650 miles).
A press release (download here) today spins the RFP quite differently.
"Today, a formal request for proposals will be issued by the Texas Department of Transportation to two private developer teams for detailed plans on how to finance, design, construct, operate and maintain I-69/TTC."
The press release makes no mention of US77 being identified as the first near-term facility to be developed under the RFP. The press release also claims that the Tier I Draft Environmental Impact Statement for I-69/TTC "provides existing highways be considered first".
In fact the DEIS selects as the Recommended Preferred Alternative a corridor located almost entirely outside existing highway corridors. However TxDOT announced when releasing the DEIS last month that in response to public sentiment it was going to examine the use of existing facilities first in selecting the route for I-69TTC.
US77 is something of a spur off the I-69TTC Recommended Preferred Alternative which headed from the Corpus Christi area to the larger border area of Laredo further up the Rio Grande.
Detailed proposals wanted by 2008-03-08
The request for detailed proposals goes to two teams selected in 2006:
(1) Cintra (equity) supported by Citigroup, EarthTech, Blanton Assoc, Maunsell, Othon, Webber, Ferrovial
(2) Zachry (equity) ACS (equity), supported by Steer Davies, UBS, Dannenbaum, ACI, SICE, Williams Bros
2/2/2/2 format likely
The most likely format along US77 is 2F/2T/2T/2F lanes (F=frontage lanes, T = tolled lanes).
State policy requires preservation of existing free capacity in the corridor and tolling only of additional capacity. The highway is presently 2+2 lanes surface artertial so continuous frontage roads of 2 lanes each side at grade would satisfy the preservation of free capacity allowing the expressway standard, grade separated facility to be built in the middle.
North of the San Antonio River on the remaining three quarters of I-69TTC TxDOT is looking for the private sector partner to do more traditional project development work including route selection, and financial modeling to rank priorities and examine toll potential - under the public toll model if the ban on private concessions remains.
That won't be known until 2009 when the Texas legislature will convene again.
It is unclear what permitting is needed for a US77 upgrade to full expressway standard. A federal FONSI or Finding of No Significant Impact would obviously allow it to move forward quickly but it may have to go through the full EIS. The Tier I DEIS just released does not cover US77.