Company withdraws from part of road project

Published 8:34 am Wednesday, April 22, 2009

RICHMOND—One of the three companies jockeying to be the one selected by the state to build a limited access toll road from Petersburg to Suffolk has dropped out of the procurement process of the project.

Itinere Infrastructure, a Spanish company based in Madrid, has withdrawn from the procurement process for the U.S. Route 460 Improvements Project, a plan to construct a 55-mile, four-lane divided highway from Interstate 295 in Prince George County to the U.S. Route 58 bypass in Suffolk.

Eduardo Lpez Simn, a general manager with Itinere, explained the reasoning behind his company’s decision to withdraw from procurement in a Feb. 17 letter to officials with the Virginia Department of Transportation. The Tidewater News received a copy of the letter from VDOT after filing a Freedom of Information Act request.

Simn cited “current market conditions (and) other adverse circumstances,” including a lack of state funding for the highway, and that the company’s financing would be non-recourse to VDOT and the state.

“We strongly believe that this is not a self-sustainable project,” Simn said. “In our assessment, the level of cost and resources required to submit a binding proposal under the current (request for detailed proposals) and market conditions are not acceptable in view of the uncertainty around the feasibility of the project.”

Despite the announcement, VDOT and Itinere officials said the company was still involved with the overall project.

“They have suspended their activities conditionally,” said Jeff Hetzer, program manager for VDOT. “We’re going to keep them in the loop, just as a courtesy if nothing else, since they have suspended their activities conditionally.”

Hetzer added, “Itinere may have their own internal issues for pulling out. But certainly with the economic downturn that has just occurred within the last six months, (there are) financial challenges that we would have had anyway with this project. They’ve made a decision at this point not to continue with the process.”

Simn said his company remained interested on resuming participation in the procurement process “should the circumstances change, therefore enabling the project to become feasible.”

The other two companies involved in the project are Cintra, which is also based in Madrid, and Virginia Corridor Partners, a partnership between Australian bank Macquarie Group Limited and Skanska Infrastructure Development of Alexandria.

The project is currently in the fourth of six phases to the procurement process, which is the submission and selection of detailed proposals. Hetzer said Itinere, Cintra and VCP have until Aug. 14 to submit their detailed proposals to VDOT.

“VDOT will then evaluate those (detailed proposals) with the overall goal of, hopefully, selecting one of the offerers and signing an agreement by the end of this year,” Hetzer said.

According to Hetzer, construction of the toll road could begin in late 2010 or early 2011, with right of way acquisition and the design process.

On Jan. 18, 2007, the Commonwealth Transportation Board selected Candidate Build Alternative No. 1, an alignment south of existing U.S. Route 460, for the new highway. The road will traverse Prince George, Sussex, Southampton and Isle of Wight counties, and end in the city of Suffolk.

Nine interchanges are proposed for the toll road, including Ivor Road (Virginia Route 616) south of Ivor, and Walters Highway (U.S. Route 258) in Windsor. The other seven exits would be at I-295 and Virginia Routes 156 and 625 in Prince George County, Virginia Routes 40, 602 and 620 in Sussex County, and the U.S. Route 58 bypass in Suffolk.