The official groundbreaking took place last week in Broward County on the Interstate 595 Express Corridor Project, a nearly $2 billion public-private partnership with I-595 Express LLC, a subsidiary created by ACS Infrastructure Development.

The project is part of a program dubbed “Accelerate Florida,” in which Gov. ­Charlie Crist asked the Florida Department of Transportation to speed up projects using innovative methods such as P3s.

Under a 35-year contract, the concessionaire will design, build, finance, operate and maintain the 10.5-mile-long project, which includes tolled reversible lanes. FDOT will pay for the project through annual availability payments, the first P3 in the U.S. to use the method. Periodic payments from FDOT to the concessionaire will not begin until the work is complete in 2014.

Initially, the ACS-led consortium planned to use private-activity bonds for part of the financing last year. However, disruption in the credit markets made it difficult to sell nearly $800 million of debt. So ACS turned to the European banking community and a dozen banks provided $780 million in 10-year loans. The rest of the financing comes from a $680 million Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan and $210 million of equity from the consortium.

FDOT’s second P3 based on availability payments is the $1 billion Port of Miami Tunnel project, which finally closed last year after many challenges, including a change in the main equity due to the declining economy.

The tunnel concession agreement was with MAT Concessionaire LLC, whose main equity partner — Meridiam­Infrastructure Miami LLC — replaced the troubled Babcock and Brown Infrastructure Group US LLC.

On Monday, the P3 industry publication Infrastructure Investor named Meridiam and the Port of Miami Tunnel project the North American infrastructure deal of the year, the Global PPP transaction of the year, and the North American PPP transaction of the year after receiving votes from more than 35,000 industry participants.

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