Cintra-Zachry, the joint construction venture that won a $7 billion contract to start work on the controversial Trans Texas Corridor project, has written a letter to the Federal Highway Administration expressing interest in a $320 million low-interest loan.
Critics say Cintra-Zachry won the contract in part because it said it would not use public dollars, but the governor’s office and the consortium say the deal didn't prohibit using federal money. Only state money was mentioned.
Kathy Walt, spokeswoman for the governor, says the inquiry involves a loan, not a grant.
But some state leaders remain skeptical.
Mike Sizemore, press secretary for Senator Ken Armbrister, says the deal was touted as using private funds. He says this is the first he's heard of them essentially seeking tax money for the project.
The Texas Department of Transportation signed a contract in April with the Cintra-Zachry consortium for planning of the controversial project, which is the most ambitious highway construction project since the Eisenhower administration launched the effort to build an interstate highway system.
The $184 billion plan calls for a 4,000-mile network of transportation corridors that would crisscross the state with separate highway lanes for passenger vehicles and trucks, passenger rail, freight rain, commuter rail and dedicated utility zones.
Designers envision a corridor with six separate passenger vehicle lanes and four commercial truck lanes; two high speed passenger rail lines, two freight rain lines and two commuter rail lines and a utility zone that will accommodate water, electric, natural gas, petroleum, fiber optic and telecommunications lines.
Under the agreement, Cintra-Zachry will begin work on a master development plan for the first segment of the corridor, which will parallel Interstate 35 from San Antonio to Oklahoma.
The plan will take 12 to 15 months to complete, Perry’s office said.
Cintra, which is an international engineering and construction firm, and the San Antonio-based Zachry Construction Corporation, have agreed to provide $7.2 billion for construction of the first six segments of the project, Perry’s office said.
According to published reports, Cintra will spend $6 billion to build a four-lane toll road on the corridor and will pay the state $1.2 billion in return for the exclusive rights to operate the toll road for 50 years.
Cintra would also operate businesses along the route.
Officials in Interstate 35 corridor cities such as Waco and Dallas are concerned about the commercial impact of the project.
McLennan County Commissioners approved a resolution in February opposing the corridor.
The Waco-based Texas Farm Bureau also opposes the project because of concerns about the loss of farm and ranchland and the impact of the construction on the tax base of Texas counties and communities.