drops Cintra, embraces NTTA
August 24, 2007
GALLAGHER, McKinney Courier-Gazette
The Texas Transportation Commission bid
farewell Thursday to Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de
Transporte S.A’s bid for the State Highway 121 project.
Mark Ball, Texas Department of Transportation spokesman, said
the TTC voted unanimously to cut Cintra’s procurement out of the
SH 121 project and give more time to TxDOT to finalize its
agreement on the North Texas Tollway Authority’s proposal.
“The commission has determined that it is in the best interest
of the state to terminate the comprehensive development
agreement negotiations with Cintra Concesiones de
Infraestructuras de Transporte S.A. and to cancel the request
for proposals for the development of the SH 121 project under a
comprehensive development agreement,” according to the
cancellation order passed Tuesday by the TTC.
The TTC also unanimously approved a minute order that authorizes
TxDOT to enter into an agreement with
NTTA on the SH 121 project
and gives it more time beyond the 60-day deadline to reach an
agreement, according to the minute order.
Chris Lippincott, TxDOT spokesman, said TTC’s decision
completely removes Cintra from the picture.
“The bottom line is if we are not able to conclude an agreement
with the NTTA, we cannot go back to Cintra,” Lippincott said.
“Senate Bill 792 prohibits a CDA on this project.” Both measures
were approved in order to comply with federal law violations
levied by the Federal Highway Administration. The FHWA sent
TxDOT Executive Director Michael Behrens a letter Aug. 16
stating it found the procurement process for the project
violated federal laws regarding “competitive acquisition” and
competition for projects between private and public entities.
The letter written by FHWA Administrator J. Richard Capka
stated, “The project will no longer be eligible to receive such
funds unless TxDOT takes immediate action to comply with federal
TxDOT Assistant Executive Director Armando Saenz sent a response
to Janice W. Brown, FHWA’s Dallas division administrator, Aug.
21 assuring FHWA that TxDOT would consider canceling the CDA and
the minute order at Thursday’s TTC meeting in order to comply
with those violations. A follow-up letter from Brown confirmed
both the CDA and the minute order cancellation would bring TxDOT
into compliance, according to TxDOT documents.
NTTA spokesman, said
NTTA has fulfilled its
obligations with regards to the 60-day agreement deadline. The
NTTA is just awaiting final approval from the FHWA on its
environmental proposal so they can begin securing the financing.
NTTA perspective, everything is done,” Lopez said.
“What happens for us is we just sit tight and wait for them to
finish the agreement, to sign it and at that point, once we know
the agreement has been executed, the
NTTA has 45 days to get its
financing organized and off we go.”
NTTA has been in touch with financial backers for the
project, but cannot begin official negotiations until it has a
project agreement in place.
“We’re pretty confident everything is going to go well, but we
can’t do any formal agreements until we have a relationship with
TxDOT,” Lopez said. “We’ve been in touch with rating agencies
who review us and we’ve been in touch with underwriters who will
help get all that financing organized. It’s kind of on a hold
pattern and we’re just patiently waiting. Once we get the
go-ahead, we’ll have 45 days to do that.”
Lippincott said the TTC still has some concerns with dismissing
Cintra and moving ahead with
“The concern that was explained during today’s commission
meeting was that the financial risk from the project would
transfer from the private sector back to the motorists with
concerns of higher tolls,” Lippincott said. “The commission
didn’t feel like they had a choice in light of the legislative
action passed in part of SB 792.”
Attempts were made to reach Jose Lopez,
Cintra’s U.S. and Latin
America president, but phone call made to his Austin office were
not returned by presstime.