BRADENTON, Fla. — Alabama prices $340 million of new federal highway grant-anticipation revenue vehicle bonds on Wednesday — the first tranche of debt issued under Gov. Robert Bentley’s Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program, or ATRIP.
The Garvees, sold by the Alabama Federal Aid Highway Finance Authority, are secured by a direct pledge of Federal Highway Administration reimbursements for debt service.
Proceeds of the ATRIP bonds will be used to construct federal-aid eligible road and bridge projects across the state where local sponsors are expected to provide at least 20% of construction costs.
“The Series 2012 bonds will fund and accelerate approximately $500 million of projects that are all critical to the state and local communities, which was the goal of Gov. Bentley’s ATRIP program,” said deputy state finance director Clinton Carter.
The transaction is structured as serial bonds beginning in 2013, though large block sizes are planned in years 2018 though maturity in 2026. Term bonds may be designated at pricing, according to finance officials. There will be a retail priority on orders during the single-day pricing.
The state’s deal is expected to be received well by investors, just like other recent new and refunding sales from Alabama, a source familiar with the offering said.
The bonds are being priced now in hopes of capturing historically low interest rates.
The fact that the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy is playing out in Jefferson County, Ala., is not expected to have an impact on the state’s sale.
“We think that’s a non-issue,” the source said. “We think Jefferson County is a very unique situation, and clearly has no connection to Garvee debt issued by the Alabama Finance Authority.”
The bonds are rated Aa3 by Moody’s Investors Service and AA by Standard & Poor’s.
Moody’s rating on Alabama’s program was recently downgraded from Aa2, along with 27 other Garvee programs around the country, because of persistent structural imbalances in the Federal Highway Trust Fund, and a shortened program authorization.
Alabama’s rating is based, in part, on the substantial federal highway aid the state receives annually as well as high, double-digit coverage, according to Moody’s.
Goldman, Sachs & Co. is the book-runner for Wednesday’s sale. Other underwriters selling the bonds are RBC Capital Markets, Sterne Agee & Leach Inc., Frazier Lanier Co., Loop Capital Markets, Merchant Capital LLC, and Protective Securities.
Public Financial Management Inc. is the state’s financial advisor.
Bradley Arant Cummings LLP is bond counsel. Hand Arendall LLC is disclosure counsel. Balch & Bingham LLP is underwriters’ counsel.