NCDOT and I-77 Mobility Partners (the LLC Cintra set up for the private toll lanes) extended the Financial Close deadline another 45 days.
The contract signed by Cintra and NCDOT on June 26, 2104 required Cintra to post a $15 million bond which they would forfeit if they did not close on time.
The original deadline was January 22, 2015. A couple days before that NCDOT and Cintra amended the contract, extending the close date to April 2, 2015. In addition to not collecting the $15 million deposit the amendment also required the taxpayer to foot the bill for refinancing the bond. During a scheduling hearing in Judge Osmond Smith’s chambers earlier this year NCDOT’s counsel told the judge they would not be extending the deadline any further.
On March 31, NCDOT and Cintra amended the contract again, extending the financial close again, and letting the taxpayer foot the refinancing costs… again.
The updated close date is 325 days from contract date, which puts the new close date at Sunday (???), May 17, 2015, nearly a year after the contract was signed.
Remember when we were told we can get toll lanes sooner?
The federal loans were to be issued under a federal program called TIFIA. Prior to approving the loans Cintra must present their application before the TIFIA Credit Council. Usually this step is a formality, as the application has already been reviewed.
We have not been told the reason for the latest delay, but we do know this: we sent a memo to the TIFIA office on March 16. In that memo we detailed how the contract requires three fourths of toll revenues to be paid to the NCDOT, leaving only a quarter of revenues for debt service.
Since then the Credit Council meeting, originally scheduled for March 16, was postponed to March 17, then postoned to March 30, then postponed to April 6. Minutes before the April 6 meeting was to start it was cancelled by the Undersecretary of Transportation.
Maybe the TIFIA folks are a little ticked after they learned they’re only getting a quarter of the revenues they thought they were. Maybe they’re feeling a little egg on their face because they missed this fact and it was brought to their attention by a guy working on his lunch break. Maybe they’re furious that Cintra never bothered to disclose this, and now they feel Cintra has been bargaining in bad faith for the past two years.
Maybe, but we’ll never know.
What we do know is NCDOT and Cintra will do anything to get this deal done, public interest be damned.