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Privatization of US Toll Roads and Other Infrastructure Gaining Speed

ARI News | March 31, 2005

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- After privatization of US infrastructure slowed significantly in the 1990s, the concept is rapidly gaining speed now that several international private-public toll road projects have proven successful, according to a project finance lawyer with White & Case.

"US states and municipalities are taking a look at many of the structuring and financing techniques and newer tolling technologies employed by overseas transportation projects to see if such techniques can be applied to US projects. Some of those techniques include shadow tolls, managed lanes, free-flow tolling technologies and innovative lease structures that combine public and private financing sources," said project finance lawyer Ned Neaher, who has advised on numerous toll road projects in Latin America and Europe.

"Public-private partnerships are now viewed by states and municipalities as an attractive method to obtain budgetary support while ensuring first-class transportation infrastructure is provided to their citizens."

Neaher says that throughout the country, state governments and municipalities are making the decision to privatize toll roads, bridges and other vital infrastructure in an effort to combat state funding shortages and reduce procurement costs. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently unveiled a three-prong plan to reduce traffic congestion, including legislation that would allow private construction of toll roads. To offset its $100 billion transportation deficit, Colorado's state legislature is considering privatized toll roads to pay for the construction and maintenance of its 953-mile highway system. And New Jersey's Acting Governor Richard Codey is studying the possibility of leasing one or more toll roads, including the 148-mile New Jersey Turnpike.

In fact, at least 19 states have enacted some kind of public-private partnership program for the transportation sector.

"Public-private partnerships in toll road projects like the Chicago Skyway, where the City of Chicago granted a 99-year lease to Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte (Cintra) and Macquarie Infrastructure Group to operate, maintain, manage, rehabilitate and toll the Skyway, infused $1.83 billion into that city's coffers," said Neaher, who represented Cintra and other developers and financiers in various toll road projects in Chile. "Given the financial crunch that many local and state governments are facing, it's not surprising that US states and municipalities are giving privatization a serious look again."

White & Case has one of the foremost project finance and infrastructure practices in the world, with significant experience advising on toll road projects including the AKA M5 Motorway in Hungary (Europe, Middle East and Africa Infrastructure Deal of the Year by Project Finance International); Autopista del Maipo refinancing (Latin America Refinancing Deal of the Year, Project Finance Magazine); Mexico's Autopista de Nuevo Leon toll road (Americas Infrastructure Deal of the Year, Project Finance International) and Chile's Costanera Norte toll road financing in Chile (2003 Latin American Deal
of the Year, Project Finance International).

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