Governor Terry McAuliffe (D-Virginia) proudly announced this week that I-66 Express Mobility Partners has obtained a $1.2 Billion federal subsidized TIFIA* loan to widen I-66.
Although the I-66 widening project west of the capital beltway is publicized as using toll money and private financing, over a billion dollars of federal tax money will actually be used to pay the construction costs and the $500 Million upfront lump sum payment that CINTRA and its partners used to secure its winning bid with the Virginia Department of Transportation.
This money will now be need to be paid back to the federal government at subsidized below market interest rates, ensuring the taxpayers will be subsidizing both the construction and the lump sum payment, in addition to toll revenue from drivers.
VDOT now says that the I-66 Outside the Beltway project will cost $3.7 Billion dollars, a substantial increase from the “$2-$3 Billion” VDOT employees claimed it would cost last year. Some of the increase is due to additional investments, including moving a Metrorail traction power substation. VDOT contractually limited any orange line Metro extension to occur for years, unless Cintra and partners are well subsidized with more public taxpayer money, so additional investments on the I-66 corridor will be limited in scope.
If CINTRA’s Express Mobility Partners defaults on the loan, U.S. taxpayers will be on the hook for the debt.
Bankruptcy and defaulting on federal subsidized TIFIA loans is no stranger to CINTRA. In 2016, CINTRA’s majority owned subsidiary SH 130 Concession Co declared bankruptcy. This toll concession company built and operated a poorly constructed toll road near San Antonio, Texas before leaving federal taxpayers holding the bag. US Department of Transportation has refused to comment how much money taxpayers lost in the deal.
Although the projected cost continues to rise, VDOT still claims that construction for the 25 mile project will be completed in 5 years.
*TIFIA or the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act was originated by Congress in 2001 to allow public entities, and occasionally private companies (as with Cintra/EMP) to obtain federal financing for large projects.