In the wake of a recent bankruptcy filing from a private company that operates a Texas toll road, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has dispatched his top transportation official to Texas as his state begins work on a similar project.
North Carolina Secretary of Transportation Nick Tennyson will meet with Texas transportation officials on Monday, following up on a request from the governor to learn more about the problems State Highway 130 has faced. The SH 130 Concession Company filed for bankruptcy Wednesday. The section of the road it oversees opened in 2012.
Spain-based Cintra, which joined in partnership with San Antonio-based Zachry American Infrastructure to build the 41-mile southern portion of SH 130 from north of Mustang Ridge to Seguin, is also signed on to oversee construction of a privately operated toll lane on North Carolina’s Interstate 77, according to the Charlotte Observer.
While the financial subsidiaries between the Texas and North Carolina projects are separate, the agreements with the state are similar in that the contract will give the company revenue from the tolls for 50 years.
Tennyson told reporters Friday that SH 130’s bankruptcy will lead to “incredibly heightened sensitivity” over North Carolina’s proposed toll lane, which has already begun construction, according to the Charlotte Observer. But he added that the bankruptcy will not cause the state to cancel its contract with Cintra.
“There is nothing about an independent project or an independent entity having financial trouble that affects our contract,” Tennyson said, according to the Observer.
Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Bob Kaufman said Friday that Texas officials are looking forward to sitting down with Tennyson. He reiterated that the liability for SH 130’s financial issues are entirely on the private company, not state taxpayers.
“This is an opportunity for us to listen and answer any questions that can possibly help the officials from North Carolina,” Kaufman said. “We’re going to wait to see what they have to ask us and we will respond as best we can with the knowledge that we have.”
SH 130 opened to much fanfare in October 2012, as the agreement with the state was the first of its kind in Texas and allowed it to set an 85 mph speed limit, the highest in the nation. But traffic has consistently fell short of the company’s expectations, leading to revenue deficiencies and increasing debt repayment problems.
Disclosure: Cintra is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.