From Dallas Business Journal by Nicholas Sakelaris
Get ready for more highway construction and more managed toll lanes, North Texas. State Highway 183 and Interstate 35W will both start construction by the end of the year and Interstate 35E just started a few months ago.
In addition to the main lanes, the three highway projects will feature TEXpress Lanes, or managed toll lanes, where the price varies based on traffic conditions. These controversial lanes, dubbed Lexus Lanes by critics, have already opened on the eastern portion of the LBJ Express and will start charging drivers on the DFW Connector soon, too. All these projects will eventually tie-in with a seamless network of TEXpress Lanes.
Here’s a breakdown of the projects.
Construction on Interstate 35W from Intestate 30 in downtown Fort Worth north to the junction with Loop 820 will start in the next few weeks. The $1.4 billion, 6.5-mile project will include new frontage roads and two new TEXpress Lanes in each direction.
Construction is expected to be completed by 2018. The contract was awarded to North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners, the same group building the North Tarrant Express, which includes the reconstruction of Loop 820 and State Highway 121/183 in Fort Worth and Hurst, Bedford and Euless.
The biggest group behind that project, Cintra U.S., is also building the LBJ Express in North Dallas. Cintra U.S. is a subsidiary of Madrid, Spain-based Ferrovial Agroman.
Work has already started on Intestate 35E in North Dallas from I-635 to U.S. 380 in Denton. The $1.4 billion project is just phase 1 of the project as additional improvements will be needed in the future.
The project includes a new southbound bridge over Lake Lewisville and reversible TEXpress Lanes from I-635 to Turbeville Road/Hundley Drive. The Beltline Road intersection will also be reconstructed. The contract was awarded to AGL Constructors.
State Highway 183
State Highway 183 from Euless to Dallas is next in line for major reconstruction. The Texas Department of Transportation is scheduled to award a contract for the project on May 29 to one of four teams that made the short list of contractors, said Lisa Walzl, a TxDOT spokeswoman. Bulldozers will start moving dirt by the end of the year, she said.
The S.H. 183 project starts at State Highway 121 in Euless and heads east past Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, the junction with State Highway 161, the junctions with Loop 12 and State Highway 114 and ends at Interstate 35E.
The first phase of the $850 million project is scheduled to be completed by 2019.
That phase includes new frontage roads, new main lanes (mostly westbound) and a TEXpress Lane in each direction on State Highway 183.
If funding becomes available, the TEXpress Lanes could be built on Highway 114, too, connecting eventually to the DFW Connector. The lanes would also tie into the elevated TEXpress Lanes being built now on either side of Interstate 35E as part of the LBJ Express.
Why TEXpress Lanes?
Using managed toll lanes, which guarantee a minimum of 50 mph of travel, allows these projects to start despite funding shortfalls at the state and federal level.
Anthony Foxx, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, visited North Texas last month to talk about the federal highway fund becoming insolvent, possibly as soon as August. The so-called highway cliff could kill highway projects across the country. Foxx urged lawmakers in Washington D.C. to approve President Barack Obama’s four-year, $320 billion funding plan that increases temporary taxes on companies with overseas income.
Obama’s proposal doesn’t touch the federal gas tax, which is 18.4 cents per gallon. Texas lawmakers have also been loathe to touch the state gas tax, which has been unchanged since 1991.