Autopistas Metropolitanas de Puerto Rico, the consortium the government selected in June to assume the management, maintenance and operation of PR-22 and PR-5, will take the driver’s seat today, vowing to turn the heavily transited toll highways into world-class roads.
The transition process will take about six months, during which the Puerto Rico Highway Authority will hand off its responsibilities for the infrastructure to Metropistas, as the consortium composed by Goldman Sachs Infrastructure Partners II, L.P. and Abertis Infraestructuras is known. As part of the public-private partnership agreement, the government retains the title of the roads.
“Immediately our efforts will be directed to ensure that the transition is efficient, that things continue operating properly and that users can travel on these highways with less inconvenience and greater fluidity as possible,” said Luis Palazzi, CEO of Metropistas.
So far, Metropistas has hired six former Highway Authority employees, a number that could double as the company continues recruiting staff, he said.
PR-22 is a 52-mile stretch of highway that runs from the entrance of the Minillas Tunnel in Santurce to the western town of Hatillo, boasting seven toll plazas. Meanwhile, PR-5 is a single-toll, 2.5-mile road that begins at the intersection with PR-2 in Bayamón through PR-199. The roads generate $85.1 million and about $4 million in annual revenue, respectively.
“During the transition period we will begin to invest in security issues, including implementation of a 24-hour surveillance and patrol service,” Palazzi said.
Metropistas will also repair holes, clean the main road, repair vandalism-related problems, such as graffiti, a dispatch rapid response in case of non-toxic material spills or incidents to ensure flow of vehicular traffic, and removal of dead animals on the road, he said.
The consortium will also make its first annual $450,000 payment to the Puerto Rico Police Department — a commitment included in the PPP agreement — to improve safety equipment and patrols servicing the two highways.
After the initial transition period, Metropistas will progressively implement the work plan that it has drawn out for itself aimed at fulfilling the capital investment commitment required to rehabilitate and improve the safety and quality of both highways, as provided in the PPP concession agreement, Palazzi said.
“This commitment includes an investment here that will exceed $50 million over the first three years of operation and about $600 million to ensure the recurring conservation and maintenance of these roads during the term of the contract,” he said, referring to the 40-year agreement.
During the first year Metropistas will start investing in specific projects, such as improvements to drainage, signage, toll plazas, safety barriers, lighting and landscaping, the executive said.
“Then in the next two years [after that] we will invest in improvements to the road surface, delineation, and rehabilitation of bridges and major overpasses,” said Palazzi.
All told, Metropistas is putting up $1.4 billion to take over the highway PPP.