AL eyes private sector for $850M Mobile bridge
Alabama transportation officials are considering a public-private partnership to fund a new Interstate 10 bridge over the Mobile River in Mobile, AL, according to AL.com. The bridge is expected to cost $850 million, but that could rise based on the design and related projects.
The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) is also considering tolling, Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grants and gas taxes as ways to finance the 215-foot-tall, six-lane bridge.
ALDOT expects to issue a request for qualifications this fall and a request for proposals in the spring of 2018. Officials have targeted a 2019 construction start date with completion as early as 2023.
Relying on tolls for financing can be a gamble because even advance studies often can't predict just how many drivers will actually use the road. The $400 million Veterans Bridge in Chesapeake, VA, exceeded daily toll revenue expectations by 4% between when tolling began in February through June of this year. Revenue would have been even higher if all vehicles would have paid the standard toll rate instead of using the discounted E-ZPass, officials said.
The West Virginia Parkways Authority is grappling with how much the E-ZPass system will impact the revenue stream for a $2.8 billion program of road projects along the state turnpike. The Authority currently offers a $285 annual unlimited E-ZPass, but the state legislature is requiring they drop the yearly rate to between $8 and $25. Once the new pricing goes into effect, tolls for vehicles not using the E-ZPass will most likely double in an attempt to make up for the dent E-ZPass use will put in toll income.
In Washington state, toll projections for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington have consistently fallen short in the 10 years since it was built. In that time, the bridge has seen 2 million fewer vehicles annually than it originally anticipated. As a result, toll revenue is forecast to be $225 million short, as of March, of what it was supposed to be through the end of this year.
The Washington Department of Transportation said it is still on track to make construction bond payments and retire other Tacoma Narrows debt according to initial projections. Meanwhile, SH 130 Concession Co., which was contracted to operate and maintain a 41-mile portion of Texas State Highway 130, went broke when tolls failed to meet expectations, which were set before the recession. The toll road emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in July with new ownership and management.
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