DALLAS — A bill that would authorize $9 billion of highway construction in North Texas through public-private partnerships is expected to get Gov. Rick Perry’s signature by the June 19 deadline.
“There was a lot of communication with the governor all the way through the process and it would be a shock if he didn’t sign it,” said Vic Suhm, executive director of the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
SB 1420 allows the Texas Department of Transportation to sign deals with private developers for three projects already underway in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and to enter into an agreement for a fourth, the expansion of Interstate 35E between Dallas and Denton.
Under existing law, the authority to do the existing projects would have ended under sunset provision in August. SB 1420 extends the authority to build the freeways under a so-called comprehensive development agreement, or CDA.
Perry has been one of the strongest promoters of public-private partnerships, but his spokesman said he has not yet signed the bill.
“Gov. Perry is thoughtfully reviewing this legislation in its final form and he will take appropriate action after that process is completed,” the spokesman said.
The projects now underway include a $1.8 billion expansion of State Highway 183 between State Highway 161 and Interstate 35E in Dallas and Irving, and the $2.5 billion North Tarrant Express project.
Expanding Interstate 35E between Dallas’ Interstate 635/LBJ Freeway and U.S. Highway 380 in Denton County under a CDA is expected to cost $4.4 billion.
Suhm said that private equity will be vital for highway construction in Texas until the Legislature can devise some overall plan for financing roadways in the state. Faced with a $24 billion budget shortfall in the regular session that ended last month, lawmakers focused primarily on budget cuts and public education costs.
For all practical purposes, TxDOT is still operating under legislation passed in the 2007 session that placed a moratorium on private toll roads except for projects already under way.
Those projects included a $4 billion redevelopment of Interstate 635/LBJ Freeway under the leadership of Spanish developer Cintra.