Taking a historic step, the Texas Transportation Commission recently selected a proposal by Cintra — an international group of engineering, construction and financial firms — as the best value for the state in developing the Oklahoma-to-Mexico portion of the Trans-Texas Corridor.
Gov. Rick Perry’s $183 billion Trans Texas Corridor Plan envisions a 4,000-mile grid of transportation corridors transecting the state and features separate highway lanes for passenger vehicles and trucks, passenger rail, freight rail, commuter rail and dedicated utility zones.
Cintra proposes to invest $6 billion in a toll road between Dallas and San Antonio by 2010, give the state $1.2 billion for additional transportation improvements between Oklahoma and Mexico, and to extend the corridor into the Lower Rio Grande Valley to Mexico.
“This is an historic change in the way major transportation assets are built and paid for in Texas,” said Ric Williamson, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission. “Private investment, not taxpayer dollars, will be where we look first for funding.”
To address the state’s need for immediate congestion relief on Interstate 35, the first phase of Cintra’s proposal calls for developing $6 billion in new roadways roughly paralleling the interstate by 2010. This includes building 316 miles of new four-lane divided highway from Dallas to San Antonio. According to the proposal, pending environmental clearance and the public-involvement process, construction could begin immediately after right-of-way acquisition.
Cintra’s package also includes funding options for a route connecting southeast San Antonio to State Highway 130 and for relocating — to the east — the existing Union Pacific Railroad between San Antonio and Austin.
Future projects envisioned by Cintra include separate lanes for cars and trucks on SH 130, a relief route around the west side of Fort Worth, a TTC-35 route from San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley, and rail between Dallas and San Antonio.
In return for building the new transportation corridor and giving it to the state — plus paying the state $1.2 billion to invest in the corridor — Cintra proposes to negotiate for a 50-year contract to maintain and operate the new highway as a toll road.