The Florida Department of Transportation has extended the time for firms interested in a $2.1 billion managed-lanes project on Interstate 4 through Orlando to submit their qualifications.

The FDOT on Monday extended the due date to April 19 from March 29 for the project, which will be the state's largest public-private partnership.

A year-long process is under way to select a concessionaire for the 21-mile, so-called Ultimate I-4 project that will traverse Orange and Seminole counties.

Using a 40-year, P3 concession contract, FDOT plans to shift responsibility for designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining the project to the private sector using milestone and availability payments.

Various sources of financing are being contemplated, including bonds, a low interest federal loan through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, toll revenues as well as state and federal funds. Federal funding is expected to pay for more than half of the project.

The FDOT said it will take the lead in securing a private-activity bond allocation from the USDOT if firms choose to use it as part of their plan of finance.

The state has also submitted a letter of interest for a TIFIA loan, and is in the process of seeking competitive proposals from rating agencies for a preliminary rating opinion letter, which is required by the Federal Highway Administration.

Along with a preliminary rating, the letter will indicate whether the senior obligations of the project have the potential to achieve an investment-grade rating, according to FDOT's request for qualifications. Proposals from rating agencies are due April 16.

The Ultimate I-4 project includes reconstructing and widening the existing Interstate and 15 interchanges, adding two managed express toll lanes in each direction, building 56 new bridges and replacing 68 others.

The state's consultants are Reynolds, Smith & Hills Inc. as primary engineer, KPMG Corporate Finance LLC as financial advisor, and Nossaman LLP as legal and procurement advisor. URS Corp. is preparing the traffic and revenue forecast.

Project details are posted on a special website at www.moving-4-ward.com.

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