Next segments of Houston Grand Parkway to start this fall
- Crews are set to begin construction this fall under an $855 million contract, which is part of the $1.28 billion next segment of the Grand Parkway, a 180-mile beltway that will eventually encircle the Houston metro area, according to the Houston Chronicle.
- The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) awarded the design-build contract in March 2017 to Grand Parkway Infrastructure (GPI), a joint venture between Ferrovial Agroman US Corp., Granite Construction and Webber Construction, Llc. The scope of work includes 37.5 miles of new toll lanes with intermittent passing sections; 6.1 miles of four additional toll lanes and an upgrade of an 8.7-mile section of existing toll lanes.
- The project, which is expected to be complete in 2022, is being financed through Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans and Grand Parkway Transportation Corporation (GPTC) bond issues. The Texas Transportation Commission created the GPTC to aid in the financing and building of certain segments of the Grand Parkway.
Unlike grants, which do not have to be repaid, TIFIA funds are loans reserved for transportation projects with regional and national import that incorporate tolls or other user-backed forms of revenue – which can be unpredictable at times. These projects, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, are more difficult to finance at affordable rates.
TIFIA assistance comes in three forms: secured, direct loans, which offer construction and permanent financing; loan guarantees to non-federal lenders; and secondary lines of credit. The TIFIA program's stated goal is to fill in the money gap, driving private and non-federal investors to back highway, transit, railroad and other surface transportation projects. TIFIA loans have helped pay for projects like the I-4 Ultimate project in Orlando, the replacement of the New York-to-New-Jersey Goethals Bridge, the Moynihan Train Hall in New York City and the Purple Line light rail in Maryland. Under the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, TIFIA will be able to loan $285 million in 2018, $300 million in 2019 and $300 million in 2020.
However, the program has its flaws. Last summer, as Congress considered an expansion of the TIFIA program as a possible way to help fund the president's proposed infrastructure program, federal lawmakers heard testimony from those who had benefited from the loans. While recipients said the TIFIA program offered better terms and lower interest rates than other options, they added that the process could be improved by speeding up government response time to inquiries, doing more outreach to rural communities and reducing the application and credit-rating costs, which can reach $400,000.
- Houston Chronicle Construction on Grand Parkway’s next two segments begins this fall
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