NCDOT and I-77 Mobility Partners, the private company hired to widen I-77 north of Charlotte, have pushed back yet again the projected final financial closing date on the project. The DOT said in a press release Monday the two sides have agreed the closing will be Wednesday, May 27. <!--more–>
“NCDOT and I-77 Mobility Partners continue to work closely with all parties involved in the financial close process for the project. The financial close deadline in the Concession Agreement has now been set for May 27th under a joint agreement as final details are completed,” NCDOT said.
As we reported last week, the project has secured federal and state approval for two key sources of funding, $105 million in tax-exempt bonds and a $189 million loan through the federal government’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, or TIFIA.
With those two pieces in place, all that remains is a road show, in which I-77 Mobility Partners and its investment bankers (Goldman Sachs and Citibank) will shop the bonds to potential investors.
I-77 Mobility Partners, which is a subsidiary of Spanish construction giant Cintra, is investing about $250 million of its own money in the project. That’s $16 million more than originally announced, after an increase requested by the US DOT Credit Council. The state DOT plans to contribute $94 million, up from an originally announced $88 million.
The estimated $655 million construction project will include two toll lanes in both directions from the Brookshire Freeway/I-277 north to Cornelius, then one lane in each direction from there to Exit 36 in Mooresville. Commuters would have the option of using the toll lanes for a fee. Cars with at least three people, buses and motorcycles will get to use the lanes free.
The company and DOT haven’t announced toll rates yet, but one early study suggested that a full 26-mile commute at peak commuting hours could cost $9 inbound to Charlotte and $11.75 outbound. The DOT and Cintra have said tolls would vary during the day according to the amount of traffic, and that they can’t say right now what the prices would be. Pricing would be up to the I-77 Mobility Partners, and wouldn’t be set by the state.
Construction could begin this summer, and be finished in 2018.
Even as the project nears a starting date, some Lake Norman residents don’t like the idea of tolls, and they’ve been pressing the state to widen the road with general purpose lanes (without tolls).
Dozens gathered on the Catawba Avenue overpass at Exit 28 Friday waving signs protesting the project. And the anti-toll group Widen I-77 continues to speak out against the project. “That NCDOT is willing to extend the deadline as many times as it takes comes as no surprise,” the group said in a blog post Sunday.
RELATED COVERAGE AND LINKS
May 1, 2015, “Anti-toll protesters make a point at rush hour.”
May 3, 2015, WidenI-77.org, “NCDOT Extends Financial Close A Third Time”
I-77 Express Lanes Project Moves Forward
CHARLOTTE – The N.C. Department of Transportation and I-77 Mobility Partners continue to move forward with the I-77 Express Lanes project after reaching several important milestones in recent weeks.
NCDOT and I-77 Mobility Partners received approval from the North Carolina Local Government Commission on Tuesday, April 28, to issue tax exempt private activity bonds for the project. A private activity bond (PAB) is one issued by or on behalf of local or state government for the purpose of financing the project of a private user. I-77 Mobility Partners will be responsible for repaying those bonds with no recourse to the state.
On Friday, April 17, the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) Credit Council approved financing details as outlined in the TIFIA proposal submitted by I-77 Mobility Partners, in cooperation with NCDOT.
“Securing the Local Government Commission and TIFIA approval means this critical project will move forward to help manage traffic on one of our state’s most congested roadways,” said NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata. “I appreciate the continued collaboration among our local, federal and private partners to deliver this immediate and long-term solution for commuters and freight by providing more choices for drivers along this important corridor.”
The public private partnership between NCDOT and I-77 Mobility Partners allows for the construction of the I-77 Express Lanes and infrastructure improvements. I-77 Mobility Partners will design, construct, finance and operate the project. NCDOT retains ownership of the road and ensures that standards set forth in the comprehensive agreement are met.
NCDOT and I-77 Mobility Partners continue to work closely with all parties involved in the financial close process for the project. The financial close deadline in the Concession Agreement has now been set for May 27th under a joint agreement as final details are completed. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer.
The I-77 Express Lanes will provide long-awaited infrastructure improvements to 26 miles of I-77 from Charlotte to Mooresville. It will expand the number of choices available to drivers, and provide the option of a more reliable travel time for commuters. The project is scheduled to be complete in 2018.