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Cintra blames its shoddy road work on the drought

Category: Public Private Partnerships

Link to article here.

Seems Cintra doth protest too much...they blame the cracks on the yet to be opened privatized portion of SH 130 tollway (segments 5 & 6) on last year's drought, and yet I-35, I-10, and a host of other Texas roads fared just fine. It begs the question, what cost-cutting measures did Cintra take to boost its own profits that led to its materials cracking under stress without so much as a single car traversing it yet?

This is what happens when we sell-off our public highways to foreign toll operators who put private profits over the public interest. Also of note, Chris Lippincott used to work as TxDOT's media relations guy, now he's hopped on the revolving door and working as the same for Cintra.

Drought causes $30 million in damage to Texas 130 tollway under construction

By Ben Wear
Austin American Statesman

Published: 8:48 p.m. Sunday, July 15, 2012

Last year's drought caused cracks to form in the asphalt in several sections of the still-to-open southern 41 miles of the Texas 130 tollway, causing millions of dollars in damage.

The private consortium that is building the road — and will run it for the next five decades as part of an agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation — has been tearing up and repaving stretches of the road between Mustang Ridge and Seguin. The rehabilitation work, under way since the spring, will cost as much as $30 million, said Chris Lippincott, a spokesman for the State Highway 130 Concession Co., but it will cause minimal or no delay in the road's opening.

The lease contract with TxDOT requires that the road be open by November, Lippincott said.

"We'll be open ahead of that," he said. The company, still working on frontage roads and toll facilities as well as the rehabilitation work, is probably a month away from announcing an opening date, Lippincott said.

The consortium and TxDOT signed the long-term lease in 2007, and construction began in 2009. The four-lane tollway is flanked by two-lane frontage roads between Mustang Ridge and Lockhart because it overlays what was U.S. 183, and then does not have continuous frontage roads as it runs around Lockhart's west edge and then onto Interstate 10 near Seguin.

The construction cost, which the company had said late last year would be $968 million, now will be about $1 billion, Lippincott said. The overall cost of the project, counting engineering, right of way costs and an initial $25 million concession payment to TxDOT, will be a little more than $1.3 billion, he said.

The consortium, led by Spanish toll road company Cintra and a subsidiary of San Antonio-based Zachry Construction Corp., is paying all of those costs, including the added $30 million. It will split toll revenue with TxDOT over the life of the lease, with TxDOT's share increasing from a few percent to as much as half as traffic grows on the road over the years.

Texas 130 lies over the Blackland Prairie section of the state, known for its clay-rich soils and their tendency to expand in wet periods and contract in drier times.

The problem, Lippincott said, "was neither faulty workmanship nor faulty design. What happened was a historic drought."

The company's inspectors first detected the cracks last fall, he said. The work involves not only replacing broken pavement, but also changing the substructure of compacted soil beneath to create moisture barriers with impermeable layers.

"We're going to keep the wet parts wet and the dry parts dry at the subsurface level," Lippincott said.

The company in some cases is reworking soil and pavement where no cracks had been found because pre-construction soil sampling had indicated those areas have heavy clay content and could be prone to similar damage in the future.

"For us, this is the stitch in time that saves nine," Lippincott said. "We're making these changes now so that in a year or three from now we don't have to put up orange barrels, slow the traffic down and go fill the cracks."