BRADENTON, Fla. - The recession and collapse of the credit markets have forced the Mississippi Department of Transportation to push back the procurement schedule for its first public-private partnership - a new 12-mile toll road.
On Monday, the Florida DOT announced no bids were received from firms interested in leasing an existing toll road after the agency delayed taking bids at the request of prospective bidders.
Mississippi also worked with prospective developers and adjusted the bidding schedule, said Brenda Znachko, deputy executive director and chief financial officer for the state road agency.
"The developers said that the lenders were taking more lengthy due diligence than perhaps they had in the past," Znachko said. "Certainly, the collapse of the financial markets has impacted our procurement schedule as businesses and developers reevaluate their appetite for risk."
The Mississippi DOT is offering a 50-year concession to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain a new 12-mile toll road called the Airport Parkway, which would relieve congestion on local roads and create a direct connection between downtown Jackson and Jackson-Evers International Airport.
After short-listing three qualified firms and consortiums last year, the department issued a request for proposals in March, when originally it had planned to release the RFP in January. Responses to the RFP originally were supposed to be submitted Jan. 30, but now are due June 15. The DOT plans to select the best-value proposal by July 9.
The three groups expected to bid on the Airport Parkway concession are: the Jackson Access Mobility Group, with main partners ACS Infrastructure Development Inc. and Dragados USA; the Airport Parkway P3 Group composed of Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte SA and Ferrovial-Agroman SA; and Global Via Infraestructuras SA.
"It's been a tough market to close a deal in," Znachko said. "We're still optimistic that we'll receive competitive bids."
To help with financing the project, she said the DOT received approval for an $80 million loan from the federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program and up to $200 million of private-activity bonds from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Both options are available if the successful bidder wants them.
Because the new toll road will have an extensive number of bridges, the state has estimated that construction cost could range between $350 million and $500 million depending on the type of bridge design the developer chooses to use, Znachko said.
The Mississippi project delay comes on the heels of the Florida DOT's announcement Monday that it received no bids for the leasing of an existing 78-mile toll road known as Alligator Alley.
"We were watching that quite closely since the bids were coming in so close to ours, so I was surprised" that Florida received no bids, Znachko said. "Of course, [the Parkway] is a very different type of project. We think it's a great opportunity for a developer to do our first toll facility and our first P3. We hope it will be a blueprint for others in the future."
Mississippi law only allows the DOT to develop new toll roads, also known as greenfield projects. The agency cannot lease existing roads.
The Florida DOT was disappointed no bids came in after pushing back the due date several times "because the potential proposers had wanted more time," agency spokesman Dick Kane said late Monday.
"With not even getting one bid, what we really need to do is take stock of where we are," Kane said when asked if Florida would consider trying to lease the toll road again. As many as eight firms had shown interest in leasing Alligator Alley last year.