Abertis Infraestructuras finalizes purchase of Elizabeth River Crossings
Abertis Infraestructuras has finalized the acquisition of Elizabeth River Crossings, giving the Spain-based management company control over the operation and maintenance of the Downtown and Midtown tunnels in Hampton Roads and the MLK Expressway.
The ERC sale agreement reached last month between the owners, Macquarie Infrastructure Partners II and Skanska, and Abertis and Manulife Investment Management was subject to regulatory and other closing conditions, including a consent review by the VDOT as required by the comprehensive agreement.
Abertis manages more than 8,600 kilometers of toll roads in 16 countries in Europe, the Americas, and Asia.
The sale is in line with policy objectives of the Northam administration focused on further reduction of future tolls, construction of express lanes without the risk of ERC-related costs, and high levels of customer service.
These policy objectives were reinforced with 2019 budget language passed by the General Assembly that required the study of potential opportunities to mitigate the financial burden on the commuting public at the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels.
“We welcome the opportunity to work with the consortium of Abertis and Manulife Investment Management within the transportation sector of our Commonwealth,” Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine said. “Working together as partners with the Hampton Roads region is essential to delivering safe, reliable infrastructure and providing excellent service.”
“We look forward to partnering with Abertis to continue delivering an effective transportation solution in the Hampton Roads region,” said VDOT Commissioner Stephen C. Brich. “VDOT has completed the consent review, which ensures that the Elizabeth River Tunnels will be maintained by a capable, experienced concessionaire committed to safe and effective continuity of operations, maintenance, and customer service. We have also confirmed there is a planned, seamless transfer of operations to Abertis, with no adverse impacts to customers or the ongoing operation and maintenance of the facility.”
“Abertis looks forward to working for the benefit of local communities and building on a constructive and mutually beneficial relationship with the VDOT, which is one of the most established and significant grantors of road infrastructures in the USA,” Abertis CEO José Aljaro said.
Prior to the sale, ERC agreed to amend the comprehensive agreement to incorporate three changes:
- No toll increases will be implemented on the Elizabeth River Tunnels until at least January 2022 in recognition of the COVID-19 economic impacts on the region. Tolls will not be increased on Jan. 1, 2021 as previously anticipated.
- There will be a 10-year extension of the Toll Relief Program, which will last through 2037. The Toll Relief Program provides $500,000 annually to help offset the toll burden on Norfolk and Portsmouth residents most financially impacted by the project.
- Additionally, the previously implemented billing and customer service practices, which include the monthly billing process and limit administrative fees to the monthly statement, were incorporated by the amendment. These practices offer the facility users the greatest opportunity to pay lower costs for toll transactions and avoid large administrative fees.
“I thank Gov. Northam and Secretary Valentine for their hard work to minimize the negative impact that the tunnel tolls are having on our citizens,” Portsmouth Mayor John L. Rowe Jr. said. “Because of their efforts, the new tunnel owners will have a greater understanding of the economic impact of the tolls on our citizens. We look forward to working with the new owners.”