North Carolina said May 4 that financing for the $655 million managed lane project on Interstate 77 is moving forward.

BRADENTON, Fla. - North Carolina has approved bonds for the $655 million Interstate 77 managed toll lane project, which will also be boosted by a federal loan.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation had already chosen I-77 Mobility Partners as the private consortium headed by Cintra Infraestructuras S.A. to build the 26-mile express lane project from Charlotte in Mecklenburg County to Mooresville in Iredell County.

The North Carolina Local Government Commission on April 28 approved a request by NCDOT and I-77 Mobility to issue $100 million of private activity bonds to partly finance the project, the state announced May 4. NCDOT will be the conduit issuer for the bonds.

Financing for the project will also come from a $189 million subordinated loan through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. The TIFIA loan was approved April 17.

"Securing the Local Government Commission and TIFIA approval means this critical project will move forward to help manage traffic on one of our state's most congested roadways," said NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata.

NCDOT is providing an upfront subsidy of $91.4 million toward construction with remaining funding coming from the bonds, TIFIA loan, and $249.8 million in equity from main sponsors Cintra and Aberdeen Global Infrastructure II LLP.

Fitch Ratings said April 30 that it expects to assign BBB-minus ratings to the bonds and the subordinated TIFIA loan. The rating outlook is stable.

I-77 Mobility Partners will design, construct, finance and operate the project under a 50-year concession agreement.

NCDOT said it expects to reach financial close on the concession agreement on May 27. Construction is expected to start this summer and be complete in 2018.

Opponents, who prefer widening the interstate without adding toll lanes, filed for a preliminary injunction to stop the project earlier this year but that request was denied. Their quest for a declaratory injunction and permanent relief is still pending.

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