One of the largest private toll road deals in U.S. history has been canceled.
Texas Department of Transportation officials estimated the cash value of Cintra's proposal would have been $2.87 billion, which North Texas planners could have used on other transportation projects. The Madrid-based company had agreed to pay that large up-front sum in exchange for the right to collect tolls on the road for 50 years.
However, earlier this year Dallas and Collin county officials protested the deal and got their state legislators involved -- saying they wanted a public agency, the North Texas Tollway Authority, to take over the project. Most Tarrant County officials joined the political shift, and the switch was endorsed by the Metroplex's Regional Transportation Council.
Canceling the procurement was necessary to get the state out of hot water with the federal government, TxDot assistant executive director Amadeo Saenz said. The Federal HIghway Administration earlier this month slammed the Texas Department of Transportation for violating federal procurement law by allowing the tollway authority to submit a bid after Cintra's bid had been made public.
Commissioners said they didn't believe the tollway authority's bid was the best value, but they felt they had little choice but to endorse local desires. Commission chairman Ric Williamson of Weatherford lamented that the risk of the project would no longer be assumed by the private sector. Instead, he said, if the road doesn't meet its financial goals the tollpayers of North Texas will have to pay higher rates. "I have deep concerns about tollpayers of North Texas overpaying for the asset."