WASHINGTON — Three firms have submitted conceptual proposals to the Virginia Department of Transportation for a public-private partnership that would develop a new tolled highway in the southern part of the state.

The agency is planning to release the proposals soon, possibly next week, according to a VDOT spokeswoman. The current cost estimate for the project ranges from $1.5 billion to $2 billion, but that figure may change as the project takes shape, she said.

No state or federal funds are currently planned for the highway’s construction or operation, but public financing could be part of the final agreement, along with potential federal Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act credit assistance or private-activity bonds, according to VDOT.

The highway would be designed, built, operated, and maintained by a private partner under a 75-year concession agreement.

Private groups that submitted the proposals are: Cintra Infraestructuras SAU, along with Cintra Infraestructuras SA; 460 Partners Inc., with Moreland Property Group Inc. and Bank of America; and Multimodal Solutions LLC, including Edgemoor Real Estate Services LLC and Barclays Capital.

The project, a Route 460 corridor expressway, would be a new 55-mile, four-lane divided highway south of the existing route, from Interstate 295 in Prince George County to Route 58 in Suffolk.

The route would benefit freight and military transportation in southern Virginia, including to and from the ports, VDOT said in May.

The state first sought P3 proposals for the project in 2006, but that procurement process was terminated officially in May because of changes in market conditions, allowing for a new one to start.

At that time, VDOT had received three conceptual proposals from private-sector firms including Macquarie Investment Holdings Inc., Morgan Stanley/Morgan Keegan, Itinere Infraestructuras SA, CitiGroup, and Cintra.

The design-build cost estimates for the project in 2006 ranged from $1.05 billion to $1.55 billion, and the proposals included public funding ranging from $600 million to $2 billion.

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