Three teams vie for Georgia's first PPP

Meridiam, ACS and VINCI were among the familiar names who submitted responses to the Georgia Department of Transportation’s request for qualifications for the ‘West by Northwest’ road project in metropolitan Atlanta. One portion of the project could cost as much as $1bn to build.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has received three responses to the procurement request for its first public-private partnership in the state, the West by Northwest project.

The three teams that submitted qualifications to develop the project were:

  • West by Northwest Development Partners, a team that includes developers VINCI Concessions and OHL Concesiones as equity investors and operations and maintenance providers; Archer Western Contractors, OHL USA and the Hubbard Construction Company as lead contractors; Parsons Transportation Group as lead engineering firm.

  • Georgia Mobility Partners, a team that includes toll road developer Cintra, infrastructure fund manager Meridiam  and civil contractor Grupo Soares de Costa as equity investors and operations and maintenance providers; Ferrovial Agroman and Prince Contracting as lead contractors; AECOM Technical Services as lead engineering firm.

  • Northwest Atlanta Development Group, a team that includes developer ACS Infrastructure Development as equity investor and operations and maintenance provider; ACS-owned Dragados USA and CS Matthews Contracting as lead contractors; LBS&J as lead engineering firm.

The project the teams are expressing interest in developing North by Northwest, a major corridor improvement in the metropolitan Atlanta area. The project is composed of two parts. There is a Northwest Corridor segment that plans to add a total of 30 miles of reversible managed lanes along two highways in the area, the I-575 and I-75, and a Western Corridor segment that would add 9.5 miles of managed lanes to portions of I-285 and I-20.

The Northwest Corridor segment is much further along in its development than the Western Corridor, so the winning bidder would begin construction on that segment first. David Spear, a spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Transportation, said the construction of the Northwest Corridor part of the project would be “in the neighborhood of a billion dollars”. He did not have a cost estimate for the Western Corridor.

The Western Corridor part of the project was previously the subject of an unsolicited development proposal presented to the Department in late 2006 by a team that was named Georgia Mobility Partners. That team also included Cintra and Ferrovial as proposers, Spear said.

They had proposed to develop the Western Corridor segment as a truck-only route, Spear said. But the proposal was never accepted and in 2009 the Georgia Department of Transportation formalised a policy of not accepting unsolicited proposals.

“We started receiving unsolicited proposals and while some of them were corridors we wanted to work in, some of them were corridors that would not necessarily be in the department’s priorities,” Spear said.

So to avoid ending up with a “fractured system of unconnected lanes”, the department decided to allow only for solicited proposals, Spear said.

“We just have a little more control over the process,” he added.

The West by Northwest solicitation will next move to a shortlist of teams, which will be announced in June and invited to submit formal proposals in September. The responses will be due in January 2011 and a winning proposer is expected to be named in March, with a July financial close for any agreement.

Spear said those dates “could float a bit”, but overall, the Department hopes to keep to this schedule.