Financing for road-widening projects and upgrades to its two toll roads will keep the New Jersey Turnpike Authority issuing debt in 2010 after selling $1.75 billion of new-money bonds in 2009.
Officials anticipate issuing another $1 billion next year to help finance toll road expansions, bridge upgrades, roadway resurfacing, and other capital needs. The exact amount of 2010 new-money issuance depends upon how quickly the NJTA draws down on its proceeds from the $1.75 billion of new-money bonds from 2009, said Dennis Enright, a principal at NW Financial, the authority's financial adviser.
"It will depend on how fast they spend what they've already raised, but I would suspect that [2010 issuance] would be about $1 billion," Enright said.
Officials may sell new-money debt again in the spring or summer. Last year, the turnpike sold $1.75 billion of new-money bonds on April 20, including $1.37 billion of taxable Build America Bonds. Enright said the agency plans to use BABs again in 2010, if the securities continue to be more cost effective than traditional tax-exempt debt.
"Definitely, as long as the market still is in the same position," he said.
The NJTA's ongoing $7 billion capital plan will help finance infrastructure projects through 2018. That plan includes $2.5 billion for road widening on the New Jersey Turnpike, $400 million for road expansions on the Garden State Parkway, various bridge rehabilitations, ramp improvements, and other capital projects.
The $7 billion capital plan does not include bonding for the new Hudson commuter-rail tunnel, called the Access to the Region's Core, or ARC tunnel. The NJTA will pay from its operating budget $1.25 billion over a six- or seven-year time frame to New Jersey Transit, the agency that is overseeing the ARC's development.
After issuing several refinancing deals in 2009 to address variable-rate debt, the authority does not plan to refund additional bonds at this time.
"I think we're pretty much done. They still have some [variable-rate debt] out there, but it's well matched on the swap side, so we probably won't change it," Enright said.
The NJTA's board on Wednesday approved its 2010 revenue certification. The authority anticipates collecting $1.12 billion of revenue next year, up slightly from the nearly $1 billion it received in 2009. Debt-service coverage in 2010 will dip slightly to 1.6 times from 1.65 times in 2009, due to debt-service costs on the 2009 bonds, according to Enright.
The board also approved a $25,000 payment to NW Financial for non-bond-related work the firm did in 2009 for the agency. Under its contract with the turnpike, NW Financial receives $75,000 per year to advise the authority on debt issues.
"NW Financial has been instrumental in helping the authority through considerable complex financial strategies, in addition to the base financial advisory services provided, all under difficult market conditions," according to NJTA's board meeting agenda for Dec. 16. "Thus, their services in 2009 have gone beyond the scope of the original award and the proposed increase is reasonable and requested."
The 148-mile Turnpike runs diagonally from the northeast section of the state to its southwestern region. The parkway runs north to south along the eastern part of the state and is 173 miles. The authority's next scheduled toll increase for the turnpike and the parkway is Jan. 1, 2012. Tolls last went up Dec. 1, 2008.