DALLAS — Two toll-road operators in the Houston area will issue $379 million as the systems continue to expand in the suburbs of Texas’ largest city.
Harris County, which operates the Harris County Toll Road Authority, is refunding $200 million this week in a negotiated deal with Citi.
The senior-lien bonds are rated Aa3 by Moody’s Investors Service and AA-minus by Fitch Ratings, both with stable outlooks.
Proceeds of the bonds will refund the authority’s series 2011A put bonds that are subject to mandatory tender in August 2012.
The Fort Bend Grand Parkway Toll Authority is preparing to issue its first $179.8 million of revenue bonds for the outer loop around the Houston metro area.
That deal, expected next week, is negotiated through Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Citi, with Estrada Hinojosa & Co., Loop Capital Markets and Raymond James | Morgan Keegan as co-managers.
Those bonds carry ratings of Aa1 from Moody’s and AA-plus from Fitch with stable outlooks.
This is the first series of bonds to be issued under any lien of the Grand Parkway Authority, which is separate from the region’s Fort Bend Toll Road Authority.
The Harris County Toll Road Authority — which is known for maintaining rigid autonomy and avoiding the use of federal funds — decided not to participate in the Grand Parkway Project, which was orchestrated by the Texas Department of Transportation.
Future debt backed by toll revenues from the Grand Parkway could come from senior or junior liens, according to analysts.
The inaugural issue will fund $150 million in construction to complete Segment D.
Aside from the toll roads, Fort Bend County’s five-year capital improvement program is projected to be entirely cash funded with reserves from the general fund.
The county maintains $41 million in authorized but unissued bonds from the $156 million bond package approved by 79% of voters in 2007.
The remaining authorization is entirely for county roads and will be issued sometime over the next two years, according to Fitch.
The HCTRA — which operates a loop outside of Interstate 610 and within the Grand Parkway called the Sam Houston Tollway and the intersecting Hardy Toll Road and Katy Managed Lanes — has seen traffic increase almost every year since fiscal 1988 in the congested urban area.
The authority’s toll policy, set in June 2007, provides for annual increases at the greater of 2% or inflation. However, tolls have increased only twice, in fiscal years 2008 and 2010.
Traffic grew in those years by approximately 4.4% and 4.9%, respectively, analysts noted.
Fort Bend County’s toll system feeds into the HCTRA’s from the southwest.