The private company that built a beleaguered Austin-area toll road — and shares an investor with three North Texas toll projects — filed for bankruptcy Wednesday. But company officials say the maneuver will not force the closure of State Highway 130 or impact any public funds.
“It’s really a reorganization as much as it is anything else, ” said Robert Hinkle, the North Texas corporate affairs director for developer Cintra.
That firm is a partner in SH 130 Concession LLC, which was formed to finance and build the road. Cintra is an also an investor in three companies formed to rebuild LBJ Freeway, State Highway 183 through Tarrant County and Interstate 35W in Fort Worth.
But Hinkle said that Cintra teams with construction firms to form individual limited liability companies for each project to prevent their financial situations from affecting each other. That means the Chapter 11 filing on SH 130 will not impact the North Texas projects.
“Everything is separate, ” Hinkle said.
While SH 130 is completely tolled, the three North Texas projects feature managed toll lanes running alongside rebuilt tax-funded lanes. The state contributed some funds to the North Texas projects, but was not financially involved in SH 130.
“We have all the risk, ” Hinkle said.
Traffic on the 41-mile stretch of SH 130 south of Austin has been far less than what was initially expected even though the corridor offers 85 mph speed limits — the highest in the nation. Company officials blamed the lower traffic figures on the fact that the road opened during the recession. They also said that traffic in 2015 increased 15 percent compared to 2014 usage.
Hinkle said Cintra still expects toll revenues to eventually pay off the company’s debt, the firm just needs to restructure.