- State PPP Laws
- Sale/Lease of Existing Toll Roads
- PPP Toll Road Projects
- HOT Lanes and ETLs
- Federal Reauthorization of Surface Transportation
- Overseas Toll Road Developments
Thanks in part to continued fiscal pressures and in part to encouragement from the federal Department of Transportation, more state legislatures took action on public-private partnership laws during the past year.
The only completely new law was enacted in Washington State. HB 1541 is the Transportation Innovative Partnerships Act. This legislation repeals the 1995 law under which a number of franchises were issued but the projects were not built due to later amendments to the law that made it unattractive to the private sector. The new law provides for both solicited and unsolicited proposals, as well as a mix of public and private capital (as in Texas and Virginia). The Washington legislature also enacted SB 6091, which allocated $1.5 million for a comprehensive tolling study, as called for by HB 1541.
Considerable interest has followed the progress of a bill to enable tolling and public-private partnerships in California, AB 850. The bill was introduced in February 2005, with bipartisan support and the backing of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (as part of his Go California transportation package). At press time, the bill had cleared the transportation committees in both houses. The Senate committee version removed a 35-year limit on the length of franchise agreements, thereby permitting the longer terms that can lead to significant equity investments in projects. California currently has no enabling legislation for tolls or highway PPPs, due to the repeal of the previous pilot program law, AB 680, at the end of 2002. The need for a replacement was highlighted in Reason Foundation’s policy study 324, Building for the Future: Easing California’s Transportation Crisis with Tolls and Public-Private Partnerships.
Several state legislatures enacted revisions to existing highway PPP laws. In Georgia, SB 270 newly allows the state to issue RFPs for such projects, instead of only dealing with unsolicited proposals. In addition, in the case of the latter, it increases to 135 days (from 90 days) the time during which potential competitors can respond to an unsolicited proposal.
The Texas legislature took up revisions to its landmark HB 3588, enacted in 2003. The main point of contention has been the law’s provision allowing the conversion of existing free lanes or highways to tolled operation as part of tolled and/or PPP projects. That prospect set off a huge political backlash in Austin, inspiring amendments in both houses of the legislature. The House version (HB 2702) at press time had passed both houses. It would require a popular vote for any such conversion from free to toll. The bill also limits toll franchises to 50 years.
The Virginia legislature enacted the first revisions in 10 years to that state’s Public Private Transportation Act. The revised version clarifies the point that any “responsible public entity” may authorize PPTA projects, not just the Virginia DOT. And it permits both RFPs and unsolicited proposals to be used by such entities. In addition, if permitted by other federal and state laws, a private partner may toll existing free lanes under revised language that no longer requires expansion of capacity to accompany tolling.
Colorado also saw legislative action. The legislature passed two bills dealing with the proposed private Front Range Toll Road, which would parallel congested I-25 to the east of Denver International Airport. This project has been proposed under a 19th century Colorado law, still on the books, under which some 80 pre-auto-era private toll roads were developed. But under that law, county governments regulate the toll rates, and there are seven of them along the Front Range’s planned route. HB 1342 would modernize the old law, including a shift to the state of control over toll rates. It passed both houses in May and Gov. Bill Owens has indicated he would sign it. He also said he would veto SB 230 which would have repealed the old law’s utility-like powers to acquire right of way. (Most proposed PPP toll roads in Colorado are proceeding under the 1995 Public Private Initiatives legislation.)
In New York, Gov. George Pataki proposed legislation that would permit tolls and PPPs for both existing and new transportation infrastructure. It would apply to both state and New York City entities, would permit the sale or lease of existing projects, and provides for both RFPs and unsolicited proposals. As of mid-May 2005, the bill was being marked up in the Senate, and observers hoped that at least a pilot-project version would be enacted.
An issue that had not previously been part of the U.S. transportation policy debate-the sale of existing toll roads-burst onto the scene at the end of 2004 when the city of Chicago announced that it had reached agreement with a global consortium to lease the Chicago Skyway for 99 years, for $1.83 billion. The winning bid from the CINTRA/Macquarie team dwarfed the other two bids, both of which were less than $1 billion. The lease will run for 99 years, and toll rate increases are limited to the rate of inflation. Chicago is using the proceeds largely to pay down debt and for one-time public-works improvements. Even before the Skyway funds flowed on January 24, 2005, officials in other states had begun to consider whether they might do likewise with respect to toll roads in their states.
Acting New Jersey Gov. Richard Codey in January called for looking into a similar transaction involving the New Jersey Turnpike and/or the Garden State Parkway. The state has a multi-billion-dollar budget shortfall, and the state’s transportation trust fund’s resources are nearly all committed to paying debt service on a series of bond issues. The two facilities generate about $750 million a year in toll revenue, 17 times what the Skyway generates. Assembly Transportation Committee chairman John Wisnewski told local reporters that “It is something we should examine to understand whether it is something that can work for New Jersey.” As noted above, the response of New York’s Gov. George Pataki was to introduce legislation that would, among other things, permit the sale or lease of existing toll facilities such as the New York Thruway and the toll bridges and tunnels in New York City.
In the Midwest, newly elected Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels had campaigned on a platform that included greater use of tolling to finance highway investments, so it was no surprise that on taking office in January 2005 he proposed looking into the privatization of the Indiana Toll Road. Daniels has said asset sales will be a key part of his fiscal reforms, and he also continues to see serious possibilities in using toll revenues to finance such new projects as the proposed extension of I-69 from Indianapolis to Evansville near the state’s southern border and the expansion and modernization of US31 from Indianapolis north to South Bend.
Most recently, in April 2005 Delaware Secretary of Transportation Nathan Hayward proposed the possible privatization of the state’s 51-mile Route 1, from I-95 south to Dover. With $31 million per year in current toll revenues, DE 1 may not be that attractive a proposition on a stand-alone basis. Hence, this project may be combined with a $500 million widening of US301 from Route 1 to the Maryland border. Delaware’s legislature enacted a PPP law in 2003, under which it has received bids for a project to make improvements to I-95 (Delaware Turnpike).
The idea that the private sector can play a larger and more meaningful role in addressing the nation’s transportation funding needs, and better meeting highway users’ needs, got a large boost when the U.S. Department of Transportation published its 164-page Report to Congress on Public-Private Partnerships in December 2004. It provides a good overview of the types of PPPs applicable to surface transportation, ranging from outsourced highway maintenance to long-term build-operate-transfer (BOT) concession agreements. It includes profiles of 21 such projects from around the country. The report is available in hard copy and also on the Web.
The biggest single proposed PPP to date was announced in December 2004 when TxDOT announced the winning bidder for TTC-35, the first major project of the Trans-Texas Corridor. A team of CINTRA and Zachry Construction proposed a $7.2 billion project, all privately financed, for the new corridor from north of Dallas to south of San Antonio, parallel to congested I-35. An estimated $6 billion of that total would fund construction of the all-new four-lane toll road; the other $1.2 billion would be a franchise fee, paid out in installments during the construction period, in exchange for the right to toll the project for 50 years. TxDOT has suggested that it may use that sum to complete TTC-35 on the north to the Oklahoma border and on the south to the Mexican border. In March 2005 TxDOT and CINTRA/Zachry signed a one-year comprehensive development agreement (as PPPs are known in Texas) to develop a master plan for the project.
Texas is also the site of another large proposal, this one unsolicited. A team headed by Kiewit proposed to add tolled managed lanes to the median of the Airport Freeway in Dallas (SH 183 and I-820), a length of 27 miles. The project has an estimated cost of $650 million. The Perot Group has separately proposed adding tolled express lanes on 20 miles of I-35W in downtown Ft. Worth. Also in the DFW Metroplex, the North Central Texas Council of Governments has received a federal Value Pricing Pilot Program grant to plan for and design tolled managed lanes on I-30, another major east-west freeway. The new lanes would extend from Dallas to Arlington.
Yet another unsolicited proposal was submitted in January 2005 by Skanska, for the proposed extension of SH 121 from north of the DFW Airport to US75. The Texas Transportation Commission, acting under the terms of HB 3588, asked for competing proposals, to be due by June.
The largest proposed PPP project in this state calls for truck-only toll lanes to be added to the entire 325-mile length of I-81, a major truck route across the state. The project resulted from an unsolicited proposal submitted several years ago by STAR Solutions, a multi-company consortium. Virginia applied for and received preliminary approval to take part in a federal pilot program (under TEA-21) to rebuild selected Interstate highways using toll revenue financing. But the $7 billion project is bitterly opposed by the trucking industry, whose studies project significant diversions of trucks onto other highways if the plan for mandatory truck use of the toll lanes goes through. As of mid-2005, the overall reconstruction of I-81 is still in the environmental review process. The final form that tolling might take is not yet decided.
The northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. are the location of not one but two private-sector HOT lane projects. The first, proposed by Fluor several years ago, received VDOT approval in April 2005, pending final environmental clearance expected early in 2006. It would add four HOT lanes to the median of the Beltway (I-495) from I-95 on the south to the Dulles Toll Road on the north. Fluor has added Australian firm Transurban to its team as both equity investor and toll-road operator. With an equity-plus-debt funding approach, the entire $900 million project is expected to be supportable with private capital, meeting VDOT’s desire for additional ramps without requiring VDOT funds. Instead of an all-debt, 30-year nonprofit corporation approach (which would require about 15 percent public funding), the new approach of debt plus equity would require a 50-60-year franchise term, to enable the equity provider to earn a return on its investment.
The second DC-suburbs HOT lanes project still has two competing proposals-from Fluor and from Clark/Shirley-in the running. Both would convert the existing HOV lanes on I-95 south of the Beltway to HOT lanes, and would extend those lanes further south. Fluor’s would also convert the HOV lanes on the Shirley Highway (I-395) to HOT lanes, all the way to the Potomac River. Preliminary numbers suggest that these projects could also be self-supporting from value-priced toll revenues. Virginia also has competing private-sector proposals pending for an ambitious project to create a third river crossing in the Hampton Roads area.
Virginia’s first modern-day private toll road, the Dulles Greenway, is looking healthier than ever. Though plagued by low traffic in the first few years after it opened (which pushed the toll road into a financial restructuring), the road now faces some degree of congestion, thanks to booming development in Loudon County. In February 2005, after winning approval of a toll rate increase, the company issued new toll revenue bonds to pay for a $72 million expansion, to widen the entire 14 miles from two lanes to three lanes. The expansion will also provide a direct connector ramp to Dulles Airport.
Under its 2003 PPP law, Georgia has received three unsolicited proposals thus far. The first, early in 2004, was from the Parkway Group, headed by Washington Group International (WGI). The $800 million project would add a third lane each way to SR 316, from Athens to Atlanta, paid for by turning the entire highway into a toll road. That conversion feature sparked considerable opposition, and in January 2005, the Georgia Transportation Board put the process on hold, until WGI and GDOT have time to assess the impact of the state’s revised PPP law.
In November 2004, a second unsolicited proposal was submitted, this time by a team led by Bechtel and Kiewit. The $1.2 billion project would add express toll/bus rapid transit lanes to I-75 and I-575 in the Northwest Corridor. Toll revenues would finance about $500 million of the cost (about 42 percent). Adding truck-only toll lanes would increase the cost to $1.8 billion, but thanks to higher commercial tolls, the fraction of the cost met by tolls would increase to 67 percent.
And in December 2004, WGI submitted a $2.8 billion proposal to widen GA 400 and I-285. All of 31 miles of GA 400 would become a toll road (the four miles inside the I-285 perimeter already is tolled). The WGI team would add elevated HOT lanes along 13 miles of I-285. Overall, toll revenues would fund an estimated 80 percent of project costs.
A new private-sector proposal emerged in California in April 2005. Macquarie Group proposed to rescue the troubled San Joaquin Hills (SR 73) toll road from possible default, by leasing it for something like 50 years. The company would refinance the road and take on the risk of paying off the debt from toll revenues over the 50-year period, relieving the public-sector Transportation Corridor Agency of that risk. Initial local reaction was mixed.
Although it does not have specific PPP enabling legislation on its books, the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) thinks it may be able to use this approach via the parent transportation authority. SHA continues to study the feasibility of adding express toll lanes (with no special HOV privileges) to the Washington and Baltimore Beltways, I-270, and I-95. In addition, they plan to develop the long-postponed InterCounty Connector as a value-priced toll road.
|Table 9: HOT Lanes Recap, 2005|
|Jurisdiction||In Operation||Under Construction||Approved||Proposed||Feasibility Study||In LR Plan|
|Phoenix||Network of HOT lanes|
|Los Angeles Co.||I-710, SR 60, I-15||I-710, SR 60|
|Marin Co.||US 101|
|San Diego Co.||I-15||I-15 expansion||I-5, I-805, SR-52|
|Santa Clara Co.||US 101, SR 87, SR 85|
|Sonoma Co.||US 101|
|Bay Area region||Network of HOT|
|Denver||I-25N||I-70,C-470||Network of HOT lanes|
|Miami||I-95||I-95, SR-821, SR-836||SR-836|
|Atlanta||GA-316, GA-400, I-75, I-285, I-575||HOT and TOT lanes|
|DC suburbs||I-495, I-270, US-50, ICC|
|Mpls/St. Paul||I-394||Network of HOT lanes|
|Portland||I-205, SR 212/224|
|Dallas||I-635||I-35W, I-820, I-30, SH 183||Network of HOT lanes|
|Houston||I-10, US 290||I-10||Network of HOT lanes|
|San Antonio||I-35, I-10, SH 160|
|Hampton Roads||VPPP study|
|DC suburbs||I-495, I-95, I-395||VPPP study|
As of the start of 2005, four high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes were in operation in the United States: the 91 Express Lanes in Orange County, California, the SR 125 HOT lanes in San Diego, the reversible HOT lane on the Katy Freeway (I-10) in Houston, and a similar HOT lane on US290 in Houston. By the end of 2005, there will be two more in operation, in Denver and Minneapolis, both conversions of underutilized HOV lanes.
The latter project, on I-394, went “live” in May 2005, to generally positive user and media reaction. It is the first HOT lane project to use only a white stripe buffer for separation from the adjacent lanes (rather than plastic pylons or a concrete barrier). It is also the first to use dynamic pricing on a HOT lane with multiple access points. The Denver project, on I-25 North, is expected to begin operations before the end of 2005. It will be the first HOT lanes project to require all carpool users to register and acquire transponders. This is expected to ease enforcement difficulties.
Two more HOT lane projects have received permission to be implemented, both via legislation. In 2004 the California legislature approved a bill to let Alameda County implement a long-planned HOT lane on I-680’s Sunol Grade, a major commuter route between Silicon Valley and the East Bay. (The same bill also permits Santa Clara to consider HOT lanes and San Diego County to expand its I-15 HOT lanes.) And in early 2005, the Washington legislature approved WSDOT’s plan to convert the underutilized HOV lanes on SR 167 (between Renton and Auburn, paralleling congested I-5) to HOT lanes. This will be the pilot project for a potential network of HOT lanes in the Puget Sound region.
The Miami, Florida area is also the site of HOT/managed lanes activities. Both the Florida Turnpike Enterprise and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority have done feasibility studies on adding value-priced express toll lanes to the medians of, respectively, the Homestead Extension of Florida’s Turnpike and the Dolphin Expressway. Meanwhile, under a federal Value Pricing grant, FDOT is doing an investment-grade traffic and revenue study of alternatives for converting the HOV lanes on congested I-95 into some form of HOT lanes. FDOT is also researching tolled express lanes for Orlando (I-4) and Fort Lauderdale (I-595).
Two large new HOT lanes projects are currently under construction. In Houston, the Katy Freeway (I-10) is being rebuilt in a $1.2 billion project. As part of this, the existing single reversible HOT lane is being replaced by four HOT lanes, two in each direction, with variable pricing. The HOT lanes will be operated by the Harris County Toll Road Authority, which is providing $250 million for their construction. And San Diego is under way on the first phase of expanding the existing I-15 managed lanes project from the current two lanes (reversible) extending eight miles to four lanes (two each direction, with a movable barrier) extending 20 miles.
Another major project involving HOT lanes is the reconstruction of the LBJ Freeway (I-635) in Dallas. This $1.7 billion project will add HOT lanes for a considerable portion of its length. One several-mile section of HOT lanes will be in mined tunnels, beneath the freeway right of way. This project is currently in the design stage.
Large-scale studies of whole sets or networks of managed lanes are under way in several major metro areas. Atlanta’s HOT lanes study final report was released in April 2005. Among its conclusions was that to maximize revenue and minimize enforcement problems, a policy of permitting only super-high-occupancy (HOV-4+) vehicles to gain free passage would be best. Other comprehensive studies of possible networks of priced managed lanes have been completed in Minneapolis/St. Paul and the Denver area, as of early 2005. Each evaluated a number of corridors and several alternative basic network possibilities. The Twin Cities study estimated that toll revenues could cover an average of 22 percent of the capital costs of a $3.5 billion system, while the Denver study, using somewhat different criteria, estimated 50-60 percent coverage of capital costs for a $4.8 billion system.
Currently under way are other large-scale HOT network studies in both Dallas and Houston. And two metro areas have put networks of managed lanes into their long-range transportation plans. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area included consideration of a $3 billion HOT Network in its year 2030 plan, adopted in February 2005. SANDAG, the metropolitan planning organization for San Diego, was the first to include a set (though not really a network) of managed lanes in its 2030 plan, adopted in 2003. And the task force on value pricing for transportation of the Metropolitan Washington (DC) Transportation Planning Board in 2004 developed a Proposed Regional Variably Priced Lanes network for 2030, along with a set of principles and goals for such a system.
The current federal surface transportation program and the excise taxes (on fuel, tires, etc.) that support it expired September 30, 2003. But Congress failed to reauthorize the program in 2003 or 2004, debating and passing bills but not reconciling them. Hence, in January 2005 the new Congress began again, once again debating tolling and pricing issues.
As of late May 2005, both houses had passed their respective bills, and another extension of time, past the May 31 deadline, was in the works. The House bill (HR 3) would continue the current Value Pricing Pilot Program, but revert to its original name (Congestion Pricing) and limit the number of toll-charging projects to 25. (The current Value Pricing program provides for up to 15 “project partners” who can do any number of pricing projects.) It would retain the present pilot program for rebuilding up to three Interstate highways with tolls and adds another pilot program for building new Interstates with tolls. It would permit conversion of HOV lanes to HOT lanes without limit. But it would ban states from entering into non-compete agreements for toll facilities (which may be necessary in some form in order to finance the projects). It also fails to include an Administration-backed provision to permit private firms to issue tax-exempt toll revenue bonds on the same basis as government toll agencies.
The Senate bill (S.732) would replace the Value Pricing Pilot Program with a FAST lanes program with no limit on the number of projects, but would reduce to one state (Virginia) the pilot program for rebuilding Interstates with tolls. Like its House counterpart, it would permit conversion of HOV to HOT with no limit. It would permit states to add electronically tolled FAST lanes to Interstates without limit, but tolls could not be added to any currently free general-purpose lanes. It includes authorization for private companies to issue up to $15 billion in tax-exempt toll revenue bonds over a 10-year period.
The hemisphere’s largest private toll project, Toronto’s Highway 407 ETR, won important court victories that uphold key provisions of its 99-year lease agreement with the province of Ontario. The current government challenged a routine 2004 toll increase as requiring its permission, but the lease agreement clearly provides for toll increases to be done by a formula spelled out in some detail, as a matter of right. By early 2005, the government had lost both at arbitration and in court, but as of April 2005 was considering another appeal. The highway itself is showing signs of congestion, despite annual toll increases, and hence lane additions in some segments might be on the horizon. The right of way can accommodate 10 lanes, compared with the six currently in place.
Several new PPP transportation projects are under way in Canada. In British Columbia, a long-term concession approach is being used for the $500 million Golden Ears toll bridge project across the Fraser River. Three private-sector teams have been short-listed to provide formal proposals. BC is using a design-build-finance-operate approach to modernize the (non-toll) Sea-to-Sky Highway in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics. The concession for the $340 million project will run for 25 years, and the government will provide shadow toll payments over the life of the agreement. A similar approach is being used in Alberta for a $400 million project to design, build, finance, and maintain an 11 km. section of the ring road around Edmonton. The term of this deal will be 30 years.
Mexico, which had numerous problems with a poorly designed PPP toll roads program in the 1990s, is trying again on what looks like a more realistic basis. Although the Transport and Communications Secretariat (SCT) is far behind its ambitious schedule of holding dozens of competitive procurements, the build-operate-transfer concessions it has awarded seem much better thought out than those of the previous program. The first-generation program sought to limit the private-sector role to as short a period of time as possible. Winners were often those who proposed the shortest concession term, sometimes as little as 10 or 15 years. Two results were that most of the competitions attracted construction firms that had no long-term interest in operating a toll road. And to recover construction costs in such a short time period, the firms set toll rates at such high levels that very few were willing to pay them.
The new Mexican toll concessions are for much longer terms, typically 30 years. And the financing includes significant equity investments by the winning consortia, which means the toll roads are much less vulnerable to going into default if early traffic is below projections. It also means the consortia have a real stake in the project’s long-term success. Among the recent projects are a $190 million toll tunnel under the Coatzacoalcos River in Veracruz (21 percent equity is being invested by the bidder), and a $334 million 52 km. bypass of northern Mexico City (40 percent equity). Leading European firms such as Spain’s Sacyr-Vallehermoso and Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas are among the players this time around.
Argentina, Brazil and Chile continue to be the leading practitioners of long-term concession-based toll roads in South America.
Brazil has by far the largest program, with over 9,000 km. of toll highways run by private operators, under 36 concession agreements. The largest firm, CCR (1,290 km., five concessions) made a stock offering in 2004, giving it funds to buy up concessions from other operators. Near year-end it did just that, buying the Via Oeste network in Sao Paulo state, bringing its size up to1,452 km. It plans to invest $226 million in upgrading that network. The Brazilian government in 2005 plans to offer a new round of concessions, representing another 2,500 km. and potential investment of up to $3 billion.
Argentina has two concessioned toll road networks, both in the Buenos Aires metro area. One consists of radial commuter routes into the city (six concessions) and the other comprises longer-distance access routes to Buenos Aires (five concessions). All have been in financial difficulties due to Argentina’s several years of devaluation and defaults on bonds. Most had contracts denominated in dollars, and their financing costs continued to be in dollar terms, while their toll revenues since 2002 have been in devalued pesos. Most are still negotiating large toll increases with the government and working on debt relief with their creditors.
Chile has used long-term toll concessions to upgrade much of its major north-south road (the Pan American highway). But recent attention has focused on the new urban tollway system, which began to open in early 2005. Developed by four separate concessionaires, the system uses an interoperable all-electronic toll system, with no tollbooths at all. It comprises 150 km of urban expressway, at a cost of about $1.5 billion.
Great Britain has only one true private toll road, the M6Toll, which opened late in 2003. Users save about 30 minutes by using it to bypass the congested M6 motorway in the Birmingham area. Thanks to its popularity, the Department for Transport is considering several other projects to be funded by tolls and developed under long-term concession agreements. One is a toll road parallel to M6 from Birmingham to Manchester, about 50 km. Another would be adding tolled lanes to the M25 ring road around London and the M1 arterial route in central England. DfT continues to talk about the possibility of shifting to direct road pricing for the entire highway system in about 10years. Transport Secretary Alistair Darling has said that, based on recent studies, a national pricing scheme could cut congestion in half. The UK Road Users Alliance has responded cautiously, expressing willingness to support such a system if the funds would be invested in a better road system. The United Kingdom also has a number of DBFO highway projects, under which private firms design, build, finance, and operate various highways, but no tolls are charged. Instead, the government makes annual payments under a long-term concession agreement.
France, which pioneered the long-term concession model to develop its tolled motorway system, continues to make use of this method for additions to its system. Cofiroute continues construction on the $2 billion tunnel beneath Versailles, to complete the missing link in the A-86 ring road around Paris. The world’s highest bridge (and longest cable-stayed bridge)-the Viaduc de Millau-opened to traffic in late 2004. Developed under a 75-year concession by Compagnie Eiffage, the $536 million project is financed solely via toll revenues. It completes a missing link in the A-75 toll road between Paris and the Mediterranean coast. In early 2005, infrastructure giant Vinci finalized a 65-year concession to develop and operate the $800 million A-19 in central France.
Germany’s long-delayed truck tolling project met the revised deadline for opening to traffic at the beginning of 2005. The Toll Collect consortium uses a GPS-based system to charge all heavy trucks using the autobahns (about 1.2 million vehicles). Early reports were that the system worked as expected, and initial revenues were as high as projected. Half the revenues are earmarked for highway improvements; the other half goes to railway and canal improvements. The government has begun the highway improvement program, using what it calls its “A Model” approach: privately financed and developed, but without tolls being charged; the government will provide payments (“shadow tolls”) based on the traffic served. In March 2005 the Transport Ministry published information on the first five such projects, all 30-year contracts to widen various motorways. It also plans a small number of “F Model” projects: stand-alone projects (such as bridges and tunnels) to be funded directly by tolls.
Greece has decided to privatize its entire national toll motorway system. The existing 1,425 km. of toll motorways will be parceled out among the winners of concessions to develop and operate 761 km. of new toll roads, to complete the national network. Annual toll revenues (E150 million) will thereby help to support the E7 billion cost of the new toll roads. The government and the EU will each provide E1 billion, with the private sector providing the E5 billion balance.
Spain continues to expand its toll motorway system. In spring 2005 the financing was completed for a $798 million toll motorway between Madrid and Toledo, under a 36-year concession to a Spanish-Portuguese joint venture. Portugal’s government made a historic decision in 2004 to cease developing shadow-toll projects and, in fact, to convert the six shadow-toll motorways (590 miles) into tolled projects. It will cost the government an estimated $1.5 billion in transition costs, but will save nearly a billion dollars a year in what it would have been paying out in shadow tolls later this decade.
Tolling and concessions are playing a role in developing modern motorway systems in Central and Eastern Europe, too. The Czech Republic is close to a decision on road tolling, given the huge increase in truck traffic, especially now that Austria, Germany, and Switzerland all charge tolls for trucks. Hungary has experienced significant political opposition to tolling on its M5 motorway, and a refinancing deal in 2004 changed the concession to shadow tolling instead. The new financing will permit the M5’s remaining 47 km. to be constructed. In early 2005, Hungary finalized a 22-year DBFO concession for the M6 motorway, under which the consortium will be paid annual “availability fees” for the non-tolled highway. Poland is still wrestling with the best way to develop modern motorways, with a shadow toll concession awarded to a Skanska-led consortium in late 2004 for the 118 km. A-1 motorway south of Gdansk. One recently opened toll road is suffering from significant truck diversions, causing political opposition. Bulgaria has awarded a 35-year concession to a Portuguese-led consortium for the 443 km. Trakia toll motorway, but the decision is being challenged in court.
Even Russia is moving in this direction. Early in 2005 the government gave the Federal Road Agency permission to proceed with a high-speed toll road between Moscow and St. Petersburg, a distance of 650 km. The financing and delivery model have yet to be specified, but a tender is expected in 2006, with construction to start in 2007. Other routes planned for toll roads include Moscow-Minsk-Berlin, a St. Petersburg ring road, and several smaller projects near Moscow.
The Middle East and Africa
Israel is proceeding with the next phase of the TransIsrael Highway, an all-electronic toll road whose first phase opened in 2002. Developed under a 30-year concession agreement, the toll road uses the Raytheon electronic toll system developed for Toronto’s Highway 407 ETR. The final section is 18 km. in length and will cost $130 million.
The only private toll roads in Africa are in South Africa, where this sector is thriving. The massive, 383 km. Bakwena Platinum toll road opened to traffic in 2004. It was developed under a 30-year concession by a consortium owned 50 percent by Spain’s Dragados and partners, 25 percent by South Africa Investment Fund, and 25 percent by various South African businesses. The already completed N4 toll road saw a change of ownership in 2004. The concession company, TRAC, which built the 503 km. project, is now mostly owned by South African financial institutions, after France’s Bouygues sold its 25 percent share. Another significant investor is the U.K. CDC Capital Partners.
Australia and Asia
Over the past decade and a half, nearly all the new motorways in Sydney and Melbourne have been developed as toll roads by the private sector, operating under competitively awarded long-term concessions. This process continued in 2004 with the award of a $3 billion toll road project in the suburbs of Melbourne. The Mitcham-Frankston Freeway was awarded to ConnectEast, a consortium of Macquarie Bank and two major construction firms. The 24-mile, six-lane expressway will include 17 interchanges, numerous bridges, and a mile-long tunnel. It will use the same fully electronic (no toll booths) toll system as the Melbourne CityLink. In early 2005 the Queensland government gave the okay for a $775 million toll tunnel under the Brisbane River on a long-term concession basis. It is the first of five new river crossings in Brisbane. And in Sydney, the 1.3 mile, $520 million Cross City Tunnel will open in June 2005 on-budget and four months ahead of schedule. Two other toll tunnel projects are in the planning and bidding stages in Sydney.
The Philippines cut the ribbon on the $253 million modernization of the 84 km. North Luzon Expressway. The project was financed with commercial debt and equity, and to repay the investors, tolls were raised in February 2005 from the previous 0.25 pesos per km. to 2.5 pesos ($0.046). Despite the tenfold increase, traffic was virtually unchanged at around 160,000 vehicles per day.
Malaysia is going forward with an innovative toll tunnel project. The 10 km., $525 million project combines flood relief and congestion relief in a single, double-deck tunnel. When needed for flood relief, either the lower deck or both decks will be closed to traffic. Given the project’s dual uses, the government provided $340 million of the cost, with the private concession company providing the balance.
China is emerging as the champion tollster in Asia, if not the world. The government is creating the equivalent of the U.S. Interstate highway system, a $150 billion National Trunk Highway System of 35,000 km, connecting the 100 largest cities. An increasing fraction of the system is being developed under concession models, with toll financing covering much of the cost.
India’s previous government talked about plans for a 45,000 km. toll highway system in 2004, but little action has been visible since the new Congress Party government took over around mid-year. State governments also have highway responsibilities, and a number of them are planning to use tolls and concession models. Maharashtra already has a billion dollars worth of toll projects completed, and has invited bids for another $1.5 billion worth. Overall, according to the head of Consolidated Toll Network Ltd., India has completed 3,470 km. of national toll roads and 800 km. of state toll roads.