July 24, 2008 / 5:56 PM / 12 years ago

Florida gets 6 formal inquiries on leasing tollway

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., July 24 (Reuters) - Six vendors are competing to lease and run Florida’s famed “Alligator Alley” tollway across the Everglades, according to state transport officials.

Dissatisfied with a previous request that brought in eight prospective bidders this year, the Florida Department of Transportation called for another round of proposals and announced the competitors on Wednesday.

The six teams include European and South American tollway operators, as well as U.S. construction and financial firms, according to state officials.

Florida is expected to whittle down the list by Aug. 25 and to receive a set of lease proposals several months after that.

Leasing the Alley, which runs across Broward and Collier counties, could bring between $350 million to over $1 billion to the state, according to studies. The winning vendor would maintain, operate, and collect tolls.

Bidders include Atlantia S.p.A, Italy’s largest toll road builder, Brazilian-based Companhia de Concessos Rodoviaries, Global Via Infraestructuras, S.A. and Brisa Auto-Estradas de Portugal.

U.S. firms involved include Goldman Sachs Group (GS.N) and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc LEH.N.

For a list of applicants, please go to here sers.pdf

Facing rising costs and declining revenues, Florida lawmakers this year passed a measure to reexamine the state’s system of turnpikes and freeways to determine the most economical way to run the thoroughfares.

In April, DOT officials made public intentions to put the Alley up for rent. The request calls for leasing the tollway for 50 to 75 years. Specifics of the proposals were not immediately available.

“At this point we’re evaluating proposals and going forward with the review process,” said DOT spokesman Dick Kane.

Last year, the 78-mile (125 km), four-lane road linking Fort Lauderdale to Naples in southern Florida generated about $23 million for the state.

Privatizing the stretch has become a controversial issue. Critics argue tolls may be hiked from $2.50 to up to $10 and that funding for Everglades restoration will be neglected or income from the Alley’s lease will be spent outside the region. (Reporting by Michael Peltier; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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