Clearing the Way for Virginia Drivers With $1B HOT Lanes P3 Project
A Ballard Spahr finance team was behind the wheel to steer a $1 billion public-private partnership deal that reconfigured a stretch of highway notorious for its soul-crushing traffic jams. We were lead counsel to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) in its agreement with Transurban, one of the world’s largest managers and operators of toll roads, to extend high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on I-95 in Northern Virginia.
The deal—known locally as “Fred Ex”—was procured as a design-build-finance-operate-maintain project. When it opens, it will complete one of the longest express lanes system in the country—from Washington, D.C., to Fredericksburg—and unlock one of the region’s worst traffic chokepoints. All with virtually no public funding by the Commonwealth. The Bond Buyer named the project its 2019 Deal of the Year.
Our P3 team, led by Partner Steve T. Park, sifted through a variety of financing options, confronted numerous environmental issues, addressed critical political and public interest concerns, and structured agreements with Transurban covering construction, operation, maintenance, and financing.
As developer, Transurban will generate revenue through a dynamic tolling system. Rates will be based on traffic speed and density to keep vehicles moving at least 55 mph. Vehicles with three or more passengers, buses, and motorcyclists travel free. The Ballard Spahr team analyzed volumes of traffic studies as part of due diligence to draft and negotiate the tolling agreements.
The project expands capacity by 66 percent during rush hour by adding two new reversible lanes along the median, which will be available at no charge to HOV 3+ and transit riders. It also delivers new access points to the 28,000 workers at Marine Corps Base Quantico. In all, the project is expected to create more than 9,000 jobs.