BRADENTON, Fla. - The Florida Department of Transportation is seeking proposals from investors and developers to finance, design, and build the state’s first privately operated tolled expressway.

The competitive proposals, due Oct. 9, are being sought because DOT received an unsolicited proposal to lease state-owned right of way along a 33-mile-long, east-west route between Newport Richey and Zephyrhills in south Pasco County.

The route, now served by the largely six-lane State Roads 54 and 56, is a congested corridor in north Tampa Bay that has been studied for the addition of managed lanes. No money has been set aside, and the project has not been added to the state’s work program, a DOT spokeswoman said Monday.

“We’ve had a lot of people inquire about it,” the spokeswoman said. “We’re very intrigued by this, which would be done at no cost to taxpayers.”

DOT would collect money from the right-of-way lease. The only compensation to the developer would be from toll revenues, she said, adding that no official estimate of the cost has been developed.

Currently, the state is not contemplating assistance such as aiding a developer in finding a conduit for bond financing, she said.

Interest in the toll road gained traction after the DOT received an unsolicited proposal in June from International Infrastructure Partners LLC, a Florida company that formed in March, according to the state Division of Corporations.

The proposal’s cover letter was signed by Gerald Stanley, who identified himself as a partner at IIP. Stanley has provided consulting services to the DOT and private engineering companies, according to his resume, which was posted on the state’s website.

The toll road would be elevated in some areas to avoid further congestion, and would be called FL54 Xpressway, according to the letter from Stanley, a contractor who specializes in  bridge and concrete highway structures. He is also former chairman of the Florida Transportation Builders Association.

IIP, which also must submit a detailed proposal to the state, identified Guggenheim Securities LLC as the firm arranging capital funding for the project. The source of funding was not identified.

The builder would be PCL Constructors Inc., which is currently working on a DOT project in Tampa and previously worked on the elevated Selmon Expressway project for the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority.

PCL is also a subcontractor for a short-listed firm being considered for the DOT’s largest-ever public-private partnership – the $2 billion Ultimate Interstate-4 project to rebuild and widen 21 miles of Interstate 4 in central Florida’s Orange and Seminole counties.

The DOT, which does not have bonding authority for P3 projects, has selected the Florida Municipal Loan Council operated by the Florida League of Cities to be the conduit issuer for up to $2 billion of private-activity bonds concessionaires can use in their plan of finance for the I-4 project.

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