The owner of three local Hooters has filed for bankruptcy protection, listing millions in unpaid debt. Cornett Hospitality LLC owns nine Hooters, including locations in Richmond, Midlothian, Chester and Roanoke. The company tells Michael Schwartz at Richmond Biz Sense that they’ll remain open during the Chapter 11 proceedings.
No excuses here. We too were caught off guard by the reemergence of the Shockoe Bottom ballpark plan. Michael Martz and John O’Connor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch scooped everyone in Tuesday’s paper with the news that the city is now seriously looking at building a new ballpark for the Richmond Flying Squirrels in the city’s oldest neighborhood -- again.
There’s good reason to take this most recent attempt seriously. Yes, this is the fourth iteration of the Shockoe ballpark plan, which was first proposed in 2003, and sources say the push is being led by some of the same folks involved in the earlier attempts. There are tons of unknowns and many of the old issues will reemerge -- who will actually pay for it, for example, and how? -- but a lot has changed since the last attempt was scuttled by Mayor Dwight Jones in 2009.
First, the renewed push appears to have the full support of City Hall. This is in stark contrast to versions one two and three (former Mayor L. Douglas Wilder picked Highwoods Properties to develop the Boulevard and the Bottom ballpark in the fall of 2008, but he left office three months later). How version four plays out from here will have a major impact on the legacy of Mayor Jones and the political future of his senior policy adviser, David Hicks, who is widely expected to run for mayor in 2016.
It’s a bold but risky move to suddenly revive a proposal that generated considerable public backlash and was fraught with so many obstacles. The Bottom site, which is just north of the 17th Street Farmers’ Market, isn’t nearly as accessible as the Boulevard, where The Diamond is located -- especially to suburban residents, who represent 80 percent of the Flying Squirrels’ fan base. Whether this is fair or not, the Bottom is still perceived by many suburbanites as being unsafe. The site encroaches on the African Burial Ground just under the Interstate 95 bridge, the parameters of which are still being determined, and the prospect of moving the ballpark to the Bottom didn’t enthuse residents of Church Hill in 2003, 2005 or 2009.
Politically, though, those obstacles pale in comparison to the questions surrounding financing and, well, Jones’ administrative abilities. Richmond is close to its borrowing capacity, especially with the new $134 million city jail now underway, along with new school construction and another $14 million in taxpayer money already allocated to help renovate the Landmark Theater. The reason the city needed the new $50 million-plus ballpark to be a regional project was both political and financial, after all.
Even if the money can be found, the city’s track record procuring big projects hasn’t exactly been stellar. One need only look at how long it took to select a contractor for the city jail. With the 2015 World Cycling Championships just three years away, it’s hard to see how City Hall is going to manage preparing the city’s infrastructure for 450,000 out-of-towners and build a new ballpark in the next four years.
On the other hand, there are also reasons to think the most recent attempt could stick. The business community is clearly lining up behind the Bottom ballpark, as evidenced by the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce’s role in the project. And then there are the Flying Squirrels. The Richmond Braves were old hat by 2003, when the Bottom ballpark was first floated. The Squirrels have built an enormous amount of goodwill in the Richmond community in their first three seasons, and have one of the best marketing and management teams in minor league baseball. They’ve agreed to help kick in $12 million to help build a new stadium. That, along with selling the naming rights to, say, Dominion Resources or some other big city business for a few million could be enough to make the numbers work.
There’s plenty of pressure on City Hall not to bungle this. The city has been able to pin the blame on its regional partners for slowing prior talks for a new ballpark. There’s no one left in the dugout now.
UPDATE: The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that Shaka Smart has turned down the Illinois coaching job.
OK, so I wasn't always sold on Shaka Smart. My oldest son, Jordan, has attended Smart’s basketball camps -- all three of them. He was supposed to attend the Anthony Grant VCU basketball camp in 2009, but Grant departed for Alabama after I signed him up. We thought about pulling out but decided the head coach couldn’t possibly make that much difference, especially to an 11-year-old.
I remember meeting Coach Smart on that first day of camp, when I dropped my son off at the Siegel Center. As I stood on the steps Smart seemed particularly short, and as I approached he shook my hand. I can’t remember exactly what he said -- something generic, like, “He’s going to learn a lot” -- and I walked away thinking that I really missed Anthony Grant.
Three years later, it seems like the entire city is holding its breath at the prospect of losing Smart. Five years ago, the newly hired Grant almost left VCU to replace Billy Donovan, the head coach at Florida, who had all-but agreed to coach the NBA’s Orlando Magic. He came back to VCU when Donovan turned down the Magic job. VCU, and Richmond, rejoiced at dodging the bullet. Two years later, Grant left to coach Alabama.Losing Smart, however, would be devastating. If Smart leaves to take the head coaching job at the University of Illinois -- reportedly, the athletic director is a former associate of Smart’s and is pushing very aggressively to hire him, at possibly $2.5 million a year -- Virginia Commonwealth University just might break down, fall to the floor and curl up in the fetal position. It will, psychologically, take the wind out of this city. Smart took VCU to the Final Four a year ago, but there’s more to it than that: Smart embodies a certain spirit, a certain swagger that aligns perfectly with Richmond. Smart is who we think we are, in some respects. That’s a powerful thing. Shaka was the 2011 Richmonder of the Year. Shaka made our Power List last summer. Everyone knew that the big schools would come calling and Coach Smart would be the hot commodity -- especially if the Rams are winning -- and after this weekend’s two-point loss to Indiana the speculation started immediately. So it’s a bit of a catch-22. Success will ultimately tempt Smart, who’s only 34, to leave Richmond.
I’ve heard rumblings that Coach Smart is frustrated that he’s going to have to win the Colonial Athletic Association tournament every year to get into the NCAA tournament. Case in point: Even though the Rams finished the regular season with 25 wins and six losses, an incredible year by any standard, the conventional wisdom held that VCU had to win the CAA to get in. Drexel, which was riding a 19-game winning streak before losing to the Rams in the championship game, is playing in the NIT.
There have been reports that the Atlantic 10 conference is interested in adding VCU and George Mason University. If this is true, it could sweeten the pot for Smart. Playing in the A-10, also home to the University of Richmond, would guarantee VCU gets better competition throughout the regular season, and many more chances to win games that get the attention of the NCAA selection committee.
Will Smart stay or go?
Stuart Siegel, a major donor and supporter of VCU basketball, expects the answer to come sooner rather than later. “This is not something that is going to linger on,” Siegel says. “I have a huge amount of respect for Shaka not only as a coach, but as a man who has a lot of loyalty to the players and the university.”
What happens if he leaves? Siegel hates to speculate, but says it’s something that simply comes with the territory. “Losing Shaka wouldn’t be a good thing. But the fact that you have great success and everyone wants your coach is a good thing,” Siegel says, adding that if Smart departs VCU will recover just fine: “Life will go on.”
Ballparks! Shockoe Bottom promenades! Riverfront terraces! At first reluctant to divvy up the city’s $62.1 million payday from the Richmond Metropolitan Authority, Mayor Dwight Jones unleashed the free money giveaway Friday in something of a turnabout.
Citing the necessity to “bring this budget forward,” Jones explained that the city has to disclose the funds within the current budget cycle -- it’s a legal requirement -- which meant no waiting until after the fall election to decide how to spend the $62 million. The money is the result of the toll road authority repaying long-lost loans from the city. But, of course, there’s more to it than that.
“We think we have proposed ideas that actually turn the $62.1 million dollars into more money,” Jones told a roomful of reporters at City Hall Friday in a budgetary sneak peek. The biggest news is that Jones will use a little less than half to pay off some high interest debt -- about $26.5 million currently accumulating 5 percent interest -- and then reissue $36 million in lower-interest debt.
“By paying off that debt at the high interest rate, it will allow us to borrow new debt at more affordable and lower rates,” Jones said, adding: “The other silver lining we realize with the paying down of our debt is that with these debt savings we can fund our portion of a regional project to build a baseball stadium.”“Our portion,” in this instance, is about $12.5 million, assuming the new stadium costs approximately $50 million. By replacing high-interest debt with lower interest debt, the city will be able to set aside $1.2 million a year to pay the expected debt service on $12.5 million, explained Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that Henrico and Chesterfield counties are setting aside any money. Each has supposedly, at some point, maybe informally or not all, agreed to pony up a quarter of the cost, with the Flying Squirrels picking up the remaining 25 percent. Jones was careful to point out that this setting aside of funds shouldn’t be misinterpreted: “We are not putting any pressure on our regional partners to do anything,” he said. Surely, the Squirrels can appreciate that.
There’s so much more to come. Jones is expected to detail his tough love funding plans for Richmond Schools on Monday, and then present his budget to City Council on Tuesday. But here are a couple of the highlights for those who just can’t wait:
About $5 million is being set aside for a Shockoe Bottom promenade to bolster the city’s redevelopment of the train shed at Main Street Station, and the Bottom in general. It apparently will be at the existing 17th Street Farmer’s Market, but details so far are sketchy. Technically, a promenade is just a walkway, so not sure how it’s different from what’s there now. Tammy Hawley, the mayor’s press secretary, promises more details in the coming days.
The mayor talked very excitedly about a $14 million renovation of the Landmark Theater, which he says will somehow generate an additional $36 million through the “use of historic tax credits, naming opportunities and corporate and other private funding.” This could be tricky, as we’re fairly certain the city, which owns the Landmark Theater, can’t itself redistribute historic tax credits (the idea being that you have to pay taxes in order to receive tax credits). Might this involve selling the Landmark, which is assessed at $20 million, to CenterStage Foundation or some other private entity, which could then take advantage of the historic tax credits?
“We already have Richmond CenterStage committed as a partner to this idea,” Jones said. “Basically, for every dollar we invest it will generate $2.80 in return. This will allow this $14 million to turn into a $50 million renovation for this historic site.” This plan will likely require some additional scrutiny.
There’s another $5 million to build riverfront terraces to make the James more accessible, $2.5 million to begin redeveloping Whitcomb and Creighton courts, two of the city’s public housing projects, not to mention money to spruce up an industrial manufacturing park along Interstate 95.
Again, there is much more to the mayor’s fourth budget, which is critical coming into an election year. How it’s received by City Council in the coming weeks will be interesting.
Last month, Mayor Dwight Jones bemoaned, sort of, all of the gun legislation circulating at the General Assembly:
“It really represents a step backwards to think that we would continue to loosen these laws so that you have guns in bars, and guns just everywhere. And so that adds to the difficulty of our situation. But I think that the most important thing that’s being said here today is that we’ve developed a paradigm; we’ve developed a strategy that no matter what the variables are we continue to use that strategy to continue to solve crimes and work to bring the crime rate down. But I think we’ll do that no matter what happens at the General Assembly.”
Jones’ shifting paradigms notwithstanding, it’s important to note that he answered the question at a press conference celebrating the decrease in violent crime across the city, including the murder rate, alongside the police chief and commonwealth’s attorney. As McDonnell prepares to sign a bill repealing the one-handgun-a-month law that passed during former Gov. Doug Wilder’s administration in the early 1990s, there are several reasons why the GOP feels confident there’ll be no backlash akin to the abortion bills.
First, you can tap into the anti-big-government sentiment and the Second Amendment, which always plays well in a Southern state like Virginia. And there’s a big difference in the political climate during Wilder’s governorship and today. Remember, the early 1990s were a violent period in Richmond, and across the country, at the height of the crack-cocaine epidemic, when drug-related homicides were big news. 1991 marked the first time the number of murders in Richmond topped triple digits -- 113 -- topping out at 160 in 1994. In 2011, Richmond had recorded just 37 homicides, which have remained below 50 a year since 2008.
In other words, decreasing crime means we feel safer, hence we’re less concerned about the impact of repealing one-handgun-a-month. That’s not to say repealing the law won’t lead to Virginia becoming one of the country’s top criminal gun suppliers (although the evidence is murky), just that the general public is less likely to get worked up about it. Dan Palazzolo, a political science professor at the University of Richmond, explains:
“Guns are different. The reason why is that rate of crime and gun-related crime in the country has dropped significantly. So the one-gun-a-month provision … basically, the gun lobby has effectively gained support, broadly speaking, so I don’t think that’s as big as the abortion-related privacy issues.”
Of course this is kind of obvious, but worth pointing out. That and the fact that police departments are much more proficient at prosecuting gun-related crimes than they used to be, and the rising sophistication of police data mining has also helped.
UPDATE: In an unexpected turn, the state Senate referred the so-called "personhood" bill back to committee for further review Thursday afternoon, carrying the legislation over until 2013.
From trans-vaginal to trans-abdominal, the controversial ultrasound bill was amended on Thursday. After pushback from Gov. Bob McDonnell and a heaping of national attention from the likes of Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, the Republicans are retreating a bit. At least for the moment.
During a standing-room only Senate committee hearing at the General Assembly, Delegate Kathy J. Byron, R-Lynchburg, the chief sponsor of the controversial bill requiring women submit to fetal ultrasounds before abortions, lashed out a bit at the “misinformation” that spread about her bill. The legislation, she says, is merely intended to make sure that women facing such a difficult decision have all the facts.
“I have always been … supportive of the woman’s ability to have the right information that will assist in them making a very life-changing decision,” she told the Senate health and education committee. She offered some key amendments, and the bill now requires only that women receive trans-abdominal ultrasounds before abortion procedures. The previous, widely satirized version of the bill required “trans-vaginal” ultrasounds, namely because vaginal ultrasounds are often the only effective way to get a clear picture of the fetus during early stages of pregnancy.
That isn’t really the issue, of course. It’s the idea that the state law would require such a procedure. Democrats have taken every opportunity to point out the ideological conflict: the same Republicans who oppose Obamacare on the grounds that the government has no place in the doctor’s office were supporting government-mandated vaginal probing.
The ultrasound bill, the amended version, was approved by the Senate health and education committee, and as was Delegate Robert Marshall’s equally famous “personhood bill.” Both were headed to the full Senate this afternoon.
But not before some pretty interesting politicking. During after the Thursday’s meeting, the issue turned contentious and a bit rough. Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, who famously attached an amendment to the ultrasound bill requiring men undergo a rectal exam prior to receiving prescriptions for erectile dysfunction, lashed out: “So what I’ve been observing over the last several weeks, the last six weeks, since the Republicans got domination here in Richmond, is we are racing to the dark ages for ideological reasons,” she said. She was admonished by the committee chair, Sen. Stephen Martin, R-Chesterfield, but elicited whoops from the audience.
After the meeting, a group of protestors were ejected from the General Assembly building for chanting and screaming “shame, shame” at Marshall as he talked with reporters in the hallway, capping a wild week.
Abortion is always an unpleasant topic. It must be horrendous for a woman to be in a position to make such as choice. Still, it is her constitutional right, the law of the land.
So, after years of trying, Virginia’s newly empowered conservative legislators are on the verge of putting themselves, and the power of the state, in between a pregnant woman and her doctor.
They would require that an ultrasound examination be performed before the abortion takes place. The woman would be offered the chance to see the results of the examination and her choice would be recorded and kept in a file. If she lives less than 100 miles from the ultrasound facility, she must wait 24 hours before having the abortion but only two hours if she lives farther than 100 miles.
In six other states that have such a provision, the mother would be “offered” a chance to see the result, although is not required to view the results, according to Guttmacher Institute.
Experts agree that there’s no medical reason for an ultrasound in the first trimester of a pregnancy. Rather, such a requirement is a naked psychological ploy to assault the mother with feelings of guilt and play on her emotions to not go through with the procedure.
Even though abortion is legal within limits, this extra requirement would be both medieval and insulting, not to mention sexist.
In Virginia, however, that’s likely going to change soon. By an 8-7 vote, the Republican-controlled Education and Health Committee has endorsed the ultrasound requirement and have sent it to the full state Senate, which, thanks to the GOP’s refusal to share power, means it’s likely to pass given the 20-20 imbalance of power and Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling holding the deciding vote. Ultrasound bills are being pushed by Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Fauquier County, and Sen. Ralph Smith, R-Roanoke County. Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell applauds the law.
What’s so utterly hypocritical of many conservatives is how they pick and chose their fights. Most of the time, they are lecturing us that we need to get government and its regulations away from people’s everyday lives. We need smaller government and should leave as much as possible to personal choice.
But not when it comes to one of the most painful and personal decisions a woman makes. Swollen with their moral authority, they want to be there, dressed in a blue hospital gowns beside the doctors, laying on a profound guilt trip to an experience that is most times already wracked with grief. They are assuming that women (not men) are too stupid to understand what abortion is despite their right to one that is bound by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Similar laws have been enacted in other states. One example, according to The New York Times, is Texas, where an ultrasound law has been a bureaucratic debacle with otherwise busy physicians being required to do many more ultrasound exams.
The proposed Virginia law has already sparked its own retaliatory acts. Fairfax County Democrat Janet Howell, a state senator, is pushing a bill that would require men to have a rectal exam and a heart stress test before receiving prescriptions for erectile dysfunction.
The General Assembly needs to keep its nose out of the doctors’ offices. It needs to respect the intelligence of women to make a choice that is legally theirs to make.
Call it Mayor Dwight Jones' opening statement. In his State of the City address tonight at Thomas Jefferson High School on West Grace Street, Jones unleashed a torrential downpour of mayoral accomplishments in his first three years -- lots and lots of groundbreakings, mostly for things that are still years from actually being built.
We’ll parse through the particulars soon enough. (Ask us about the green, concrete-looking "riverfront terraces" lining the bank of the James).
The real story here is that Jones let the preacher out, particularly toward the end of his speech, and it damn near broke into a call-and-response sermon. This is a relatively rare occurrence. Jones likes to keep the reverend out of his politics, perhaps to his detriment.
If this is a sign of things to come in 2012, well, it can’t all be bad. In pressing for continuing to build on the foundation his administration has supposedly already built --“We’re playing on a great stage,” he told the audience -- the mayor dropped this gem:
“I’ve spoken about the schools that we are building, and we’re so proud of that and we’re grateful to all who have come together to make that happen. … But the buildings speak to bricks and mortar. And we’re using the same bricks and mortar to build a jail. Our challenge is to make sure that our jail is not the structure that ends up getting the most use.”
“I applaud the progress that’s been made by the school system. Dr. [Yvonne] Brandon and the School Board have done a marvelous job. Let me be the first to say we have come a long way. But I must also point out that the future of our children and the future of our city demands more of you, and demands more of me,” Jones said. “A tier one city is one where we stop celebrating the decreases in our negatives. For example, a tier one city does not celebrate a decrease in our dropout rate and truancy rates. A tier one city does not celebrate getting more education money from the state because we are poor and have kids on free lunch. A tier one city does not celebrate when our schools are … accredited based on archaic minimum standards.”
Oh, it gets even better:
“And I must admit that I myself have participated in these celebrations of mediocrity. But we’ve got to stop. A tier one city has got to recognize that we will accept nothing but excellence in education. We have got to let go of the mediocrity and embrace excellence. … Our children are crying out for help.”
I don’t know what message that sends about his campaign for reelection, but it’s hard not to be a little inspired by his honesty. At the very least, it’s a good start.
A freelance photographer and regular contributor to RVA Magazine says he was swept up in the police raid on the Occupy Richmond encampment last night and arrested while trying to take pictures from a public area.
“My wrists are swollen and bruised by the cuffs,” Ian Graham says Monday, out of jail released on a summons and working on another assignment.
State and city police ended a 15-day encampment at Kanawha Plaza around 1 a.m., say protestors, who were given an hour to leave. Those who chose to stay were arrested -- at least 9, as confirmed earlier today by Style.
Through his Twitter feed at @IanGraham, he wrote around 4 a.m.: “Arrested for ‘trespassing’ tonight in a crosswalk between 9th and 10th streets, while documenting @RichmondPolice breaking up #rva #ows.” The hashtags stand for Richmond and Occupy Wall Street.
Graham says he had no political agenda, doesn’t speak for the Occupy Richmond protest and went to Kanawha around 1:30 a.m. after photographing a party.
“There were people on both sides of the crosswalk where I was arrested, and none of them were arrested,” Graham writes on RVA Magazine’s website. “But none of them had cameras, either.”
After weeks of debate and consternation over the future of the city’s expressway system, the official vote proceeded without questions or discussion. The Richmond Metropolitan Authority voted 11-0 Tuesday to approve a refinancing of the remaining debt on the Downtown Expressway and Powhite Parkway -- and to pay back the city its $62 million.
The vote came despite the fact that Mike Berry, the authority’s general manager, had received two inquiries from companies seeking to privatize the roadway. It came despite a request from a majority of City Council members to hold off until alternatives could be explored.
For all practical purposes, going forward with a refinancing of the authority’s senior debt and repayment of $62 million in subordinate debt -- the deal in essence rolls both onto the authority’s books, a total of about $188 million -- affords the authority freedom to issue future bonds for capital and maintenance needs.
It also ends, for now, the immediate question of whether to privatize the expressway or continue operating the system through the regional authority that is the RMA.
“There’s also been some conversation about privatization and the Public-Private Transportation Act, and us repaying the subordinate debt does not preclude a firm from making a proposal in the future with regard to the RMA,” Berry told the board Tuesday afternoon. “I think we are in a position to carry out the wishes of the board at this point.” Shortly afterward, the board voted to approve the deal.
Whether or not the board carried out the wishes of the public, however, is another matter. For weeks, Mayor Dwight Jones has pressed for the authority to repay the city’s long-lost $62 million, but in doing so the RMA is pushing back the city’s ownership rights to the expressway. The authority has been operating for years with the goal of paying off the expressway’s debt by 2022, at which point the road would revert to city ownership. Because it brings in $35 million in tolls a year, and net revenue of $10 million, many believe the toll road would fetch hundreds of millions in a privatization deal.
With the bond issue that was approved Tuesday, the city wouldn’t gain ownership until 2041.
Having to wait to gain ownership, however, may not be as important as the potential political fallout. At various points over the years, there have been efforts in the General Assembly to strip away some of the city’s seats on the RMA’s board. Richmond’s mayor appoints six of the 11 board members; Chesterfield County appoints two; Henrico County appoints two; and there’s a seat reserved for a state transportation official.
With more than 60 percent of expressway commuters coming from Chesterfield, the argument goes that the county needs more representation on the board. Previous efforts in the Statehouse have largely failed, however, because the city put up all of the land for the expressway system as well as the money in the early years when tolls weren’t enough to cover bond payments.
Now, with the city getting its $62 million, some fear that a new push in the statehouse to strip seats away from the city will gain traction. If that happens, the city’s reversion right could be in jeopardy.
“The minute the city of Richmond receives that subordinate debt [the $62 million], I will bet my last dollar that the General Assembly will change the composition of the board,” says City Councilman Bruce Tyler, who attended Tuesday’s meeting. “The only argument we have is that it’s all in the city of Richmond. I wasn’t born yesterday.”
In the end, whether Tuesday’s vote negates any future debate over privatization is still an open question. After the vote, City Council’s land use committee approved a resolution asking the RMA not to take action on the refinancing deal it had already approved. The resolution, which now goes before the full City Council, also requests the authority conduct an independent analysis of the refinancing and possible alternatives. The resolution, of course, appears to be moot.
Whether the RMA or the city still explores privatization of the toll roads is also unclear. Abertis, a transportation company based in Barcelona, is working on a proposal to present to the RMA, perhaps as early next week. In an interview Monday afternoon, Jordi Graells, president of Abertis USA, told Style that if the current deal went through it wouldn’t automatically negate their proposal. It might mean, however, that the company’s planned proposal to pay $250 million for a 30-year concession deal -- based on minimal toll increases, adjusted only for inflation -- may simply mean less of a payday for the city.
“We could just still go for the deal,” Graells said, adding the caveat: “The more debt that the RMA accumulates, the less value of the concession.”
As for the lack of substantive debate, at least on Tuesday, James Jenkins, chairman of the RMA board, says the authority has been working on the refinancing package for months. He also mentions that the authority puts its toll road patrons first.
“We had a unanimous Chesterfield Board of Supervisors who passed a resolution asking us to wait on a toll increase, and we didn’t do that, because we found it was in the best interest of the RMA to move forward,” Jenkins says, referring to the last time the authority raised tolls, in 2008, from 50 to 70 cents.
The real question, of course, is whether privatization would unleash the demons that the authority and the mayor predict -- rapidly escalating tolls. Graells says the tolls wouldn’t have to be raised significantly in a private deal, and could be structured to allow increases based only on the rate of inflation. In a letter to the authority’s board Tuesday morning, attorney Thomas Wolf, who is representing Abertis, argues that privatization would lead to greater efficiencies -- at less cost to toll-road users.
“Over the last 15 years, the RMA has authorized two toll increases that imply an average annual toll escalation on the Expressway of 4.73%. That rate increase is greater than the rate increase contemplated by many concessions, assuming normal levels of price inflation,” Wolf writes.
Berry, the RMA’s general manager, says he hasn’t received an official proposal from Abertis, or Washington, D.C.-based Carlyle Infrastructure Partners, which submitted a letter of interest that Berry received “during dessert” at Tuesday’s lunch meeting.
Afterward, however, Berry says it’s “unlikely” that Abertis could finance their deal with minimal toll increases.
It’s also just as likely that the city never really finds out.