BRADENTON, Fla. - The Florida Department of Transportation is starting a new search for a concessionaire to become the first to lease an existing toll road in the state.
The agency said it needed more detailed information late Wednesday when it reissued a request for qualifications from firms interested in leasing the 78-mile-long Alligator Alley for up to 75 years.
Eight firms had already responded to FDOT's first call for qualifications, which went out in early May.
But a panel of experts raised a variety of questions while reviewing those submissions, said Kevin Thibault, assistant secretary of engineering and operations for FDOT.
Thibault said some of the questions involved the need to obtain more detailed information on firms that would be collecting tolls or doing maintenance, or seeking clarification about investors.
"We looked at all they gave us and obviously what we asked for wasn't all we needed," he said, adding that the procurement process did not offer the flexibility of going back and forth with various vendors to ask questions. "It was easier for us to go back out and clarify those areas."
While FDOT has advisers for its public-private partnerships, and has done previous concessions for new projects, and looked at other state's leases, Thibault said factors such as state law and policy decisions govern procurement in Florida and the creation of documents to solicit those procurements.
"We are new to leasing an asset," he said. "We've got many models for procurement, but each state has its own procurement laws."
FDOT, for example, must take its lease proposal to the Legislative Budget Commission for final approval.
The new start to the Alligator Alley leasing process means FDOT loses about a month on its previous schedule.
None of the eight firms submitting proposals the first time around raised any objections, Thibault said. New statements of qualifications are due July 23 and new firms may enter the process.
FDOT experts will review the qualifications and recommend a short list of the firms, which will be announced Aug. 20.
The short list of firms will be asked to respond to a request for proposals, which are due by Dec. 10. Details concerning the procurement are on the Web at www.alligator-alley.com.
The proposed leasing of the highway has received a backlash from drivers and local governments. Many are concerned about future toll increases and others are upset about giving control of Alligator Alley to a private firm or consortium.
The lease is designed to cultivate more revenues for transportation projects in south Florida, Studies by the state and investment banks suggest that leasing Alligator Alley could bring between $350 million to over $1 billion. The lease would include maintaining, operating, and collecting tolls on the Alley, which traverses Collier and Broward counties in south Florida.