BRADENTON, Fla. — Georgia has restarted the Northwest Corridor congestion-reliever project in the Atlanta metropolitan region using a traditional approach to its construction and funding, as opposed to a public-private partnership.
The nearly 30-mile, $1 billion project now will be publicly funded and financed, instead of transferring the risk and profits to the private sector.
Using a design-build contracting method, the state now expects to finance the project with a combination of transportation funds, a $270 million low-interest Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan, grant anticipation revenue vehicle bonds and toll-revenue bonds.
“The essence of this procurement, aside from its design-build component, is that there will be significantly more public funding committed to the project and no long-term concession relationship,” said Georgia Department of Transportation spokesman David Spear. The “state will own, operate and maintain, and be solely responsible for, the tolling regimen.”
The Northwest Corridor project, as it is now known, eliminates a former western component, and now covers 30 miles along Interstates 75 and 575 where two new lanes will be built.
The new lanes will be separated from the existing interstate and be reversible to carry traffic southbound during morning commuting hours and northbound in the evenings.
GDOT will use a variable-rate toll, based on traffic volume, on the new lanes.
The project still will be overseen by GDOT’s P3 division to expedite the work with a private firm or consortium. The private partner also will be responsible for initially funding up to 20% of the project’s cost, according to GDOT State Transportation Board Chairman Rudy Bowen.
“The private-sector finance component is something akin to a short-term bridge loan for construction costs,” Spear said. “There will be no private-sector equity stake or lease arrangement in the completed roadway.”
Spear also said the state expects to achieve cost savings using the design-build approach, with the amount to be determined as the project moves through the procurement process.
The project has been proposed for many years to deal with bumper-to-bumper traffic congestion in and out of Atlanta.
In late 2009, GDOT launched what was then called the West by Northwest Project, which was supposed to be the state’s first P3.
That project involved adding two tolled, reversible managed lanes along I75/575, as well as pre-development activities for another 27-mile westerly segment along I-285 and I-20.
GDOT issued a request for proposals last September for the original P3, and had asked three qualified consortiums to submit proposals by Feb. 3.
At the time, a concession contract up to 70 years was under consideration.
In December, Gov. Nathan Deal halted the P3 concession process saying that the state would give up too much control over the project for too long.
Deal said he now supports the design-build approach to give the state more control over all facets of the project.
“We need to make these improvements to our system but we also have a responsibility to do so in a manner that best protects the sovereign interests of the state [and] insuring that Georgia forever retains control of its assets, their use and their future development,” Deal said in a statement.
GDOT will hold an informational session for interested firms on June 5, and plans to issue a request for qualifications on June 8. A short list of qualified firms will be selected Aug. 16.
The state’s technical advisor on the project is HNTB Corp.
Legal advisors are Greenberg Traurig LLP and Nossaman LLP.
Financial advisors are Public Resources Advisory Group and Jeffrey A. Parker & Associates Inc.