Belle Chasse Bridge and Tunnel Replacement Project is first transportation infrastructure P3 in the Bayou State
The fixed-span bridge that spans the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Belle Chasse, Louisiana not only breaks new ground as the first transportation P3 in the state, but also demonstrates how P3s can be used for relatively low dollar value projects and replace aging infrastructure in more rural areas in states that lack the means to do so.
BTY is serving as the Lenders’ Technical Advisor on the project, which achieved Financial Close in December 2019 and is slated to open in 2024. The winning consortium, led by Plenary Americas, also features a design-build joint venture between Traylor Bros. and Massman Construction, who are known for their work over large bodies of water. The new bridge – designed to withstand hurricanes– will eliminate delays associated with the operation of the current vertical-lift bridge and aging tunnel and improve hurricane evacuation procedures.
The project also has a number of other innovative aspects. While some P3 approaches look to maximize and seek a large upfront payment at Financial Close, the project authority, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LA DOTD), asked for proposals with the lowest possible toll rate in order to secure the infrastructure at the lowest possible cost for users.
BTY developed additional innovations for risk assessment and mitigation. In such projects, the authority is typically responsible for maintaining existing bridge and/or tunnel operations during construction. In this case, that responsibility is shifted to Plenary, requiring BTY to undertake an additional risk assessment of the operations and maintenance of aging infrastructure as well as the commercial protections provided through the Comprehensive Agreement.
Another innovation involved a value optimization proposal submitted by Plenary at the preferred proponent stage before financial close. This required a rapid review of the impact of the value optimization, which reduced right-of-way acquisition costs and utility conflicts, as well as improved traffic safety, to support continued lender confidence in the project.
BTY’s extensive experience in bridge, tunnel and tolled P3 projects enabled us to respond quickly to each of these elements and support the success of the state’s first transportation infrastructure P3 project.