And Then There Was One…

After three weeks of cajoling the NCDOT with a FOIA request, and a couple calls to the NC Attorney Generals office, I finally got a response about who actually bid on the toll lane contract.  I received a cut and paste of a carefully worded statement.  Here it is (emphasis added):

Four potential bidders were shortlisted and participated in more than 70 intensive, one-on-one meetings with NCDOT. These meetings helped us produce several drafts of the final contract documents. These documents lay out the instructions for bidding, the design, construction, and maintenance performance requirements and the overarching agreement. They reflect the minimum contract requirements and the public protections that we require (e.g. bonding, insurance, termination rights, revenue sharing, etc.)
In addition, we stated that the maximum contribution from traditional state funding would be capped at $170 million.
Each of the four bidders conducted exhaustive analyses to determine if they could meet these contract requirements while ensuring that the long term contract would generate enough revenue to offset their initial investment.
Bidders requested varying amounts of additional state and federal funding beyond the $170 Million, and/or requested that a multitude of the contract requirements be relaxed. We determined that the $170 million public contribution was reasonable and the public protections in place in the contract were prudent. The cap would not be increased.
Bids were due on March 31, 2014 and one bidder submitted a compliant technical proposal and financial proposal. The proposals were subjected to roughly 200 pass/fail criteria and further evaluation of the relative merits of their technical proposal.
The apparent best value proposer was announced on April 11, 2014 as Cintra Infraestructures. Cintra proposed a total project investment of $655 million, of which only $88 million is the NCDOT contribution (less than the projected $170 million contribution).
So there you have it… after three years, 70+ meetings and umpteen hours working the agreement, only one consortium was interested in bidding.  Somewhere a red light should be flashing.


Out of Four Bidders, Successful One is Sole ALEC Member

In 2011, Speaker Thom Tillis was named ALEC’s “Legislator of the Year.” The membership of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is composed of private companies and legislators with the goal of promoting “limited government, free markets, and federalism” according to their website.

In reality they craft model legislation for, among other things, public-private partnerships (P3’s) like those being proposed for the I-77 toll lanes. So it probably comes as no surprise that in the summer of 2012 the North Carolina House passed legislation enabling the state to enter P3 contracts.

In Spring of 2013 Tillis jetted off to Oklahoma City to attend the annual ALEC conference and was named a Board Member.

Two weeks ago, NCDOT named Cintra as the “best value” proposer for the I-77 toll lane project.

What do these developments have in common?

Cintra is a member of ALEC. In fact, of the four potential bidders, CIntra is the only one who is a member of ALEC.

Granted these developments are loosely connected- loose enough to plausibly deny crony capitalism, but you have to wonder. And you have to wonder given the NCDOT refuses to release the names of those who actually submitted a bid, let alone any information regarding the bid (like how many taxpayer dollars are at risk). Even though NCDOT has made their selection, we don’t know where the toll lanes can be accessed, how they’ll be accessed and even how much the freaking tolls will be. You have to wonder.

Public agreements made in secret rarely benefit the public.