DALLAS - A heavily traveled turnpike north of Austin will become the first part of a tollway system under a finance plan approved by regional planners.
With passage Monday by the Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Authority, the plan will allow revenues from the 183-A tollway opened in 2007 to back debt for a $624 million project known as U.S. 290 East, or the Manor Freeway. The two highways will be linked by a 4.5-mile, $101 million extension of 183-A that is expected to be under construction next year.
The toll projects will be built and operated by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority - one of two public toll road authorities in the region - that gets first claims to any toll projects in the area.
The toll authority in April hired JPMorgan to secure financing for the new Manor Expressway and the 183-A extension. All told, CTRMA is anticipating about $1.5 billion in expressway projects in the region.
"Innovative financing has helped make it possible for the mobility authority to invest another $630 million in local infrastructure projects," said CTRMA executive director Mike Heiligenstein.
Although the Manor Freeway is expected to cover its own debt service with toll revenues, bonds for the project would require additional backing from the successful 183-A tollway to attract investors, officials said. The 183-A tollway earns about $5 million per year in profit, according to the authority.
"Bond documents for the 183-A project described 183-A as the initial project of the CTRMA turnpike system," Heiligenstein told a public hearing on the finance plan last month. "Money from the 183-A project bond sale was specifically allocated for the cost of studying, evaluating, and designing, and additional turnpike projects. Bond-holders require a project to generate significantly more money than is necessary to pay back the bonds."
The Manor Expressway is designed to ease congestion in the booming suburbs, where traffic has increased 78% since 1990. As proposed, the Manor Expressway will be a 6.2-mile limited-access toll road with three lanes in each direction. Construction is expected to begin by late 2009 and could be open to traffic by 2013.
While the CTRMA begins to expand into a toll system, another toll system known as the Central Texas Turnpike Project has operated three toll highways in the area for more than a year.
The CTTP, which issued $2.2 billion of bonds in 2000 and 2001 to finance its system, is a division of the Texas Department of Public Safety. TxDOT's governing board, the Texas Transportation Commission, serves as issuer of the debt.