With several megaprojects located in the North Texas area, two of which together total nearly $5 billion, Ferrovial US Construction Corp. is leading the way on transportation infrastructure in Texas. The firm is a new addition to ENR Texas & Louisiana's annual ranking of top contractors. The company, an internationally based transportation contractor, saw strong growth in 2013, gaining nearly $270 million in regional revenue. Ferrovial was ranked third on this year's list of top contractors with regional revenue of $1.471 billion in 2013.
For its outstanding growth and commitment to Texas roadways, a massive project portfolio and its dedication beyond the jobsite, ENR Texas & Louisiana has named Ferrovial US Construction Corp. its 2014 Contractor of the Year.
Getting to Texas
Ferrovial's operation in the United States is just one part of the company's large international identity. The Spanish firm has multiple business lines and is a major player in transportation infrastructure worldwide.
Texas-centric Ferrovial Agroman US Corp. (FAUS) is the U.S.-based arm of Ferrovial Agroman, which engages in civil works, building and industrial projects around the world.
"Going back several years to the days of the Trans Texas Corridor, we saw Texas as a great opportunity for years to follow," says Ignacio Vivancos, managing director at FAUS. "Essentially, we set up camp in Texas with the idea that it would be the most immediate opportunity to establish a U.S. and North American presence. In 2005, we began the acquisition of Webber LLC with this in mind. We wanted a solid, heavy-civil construction company with strong Texas roots, and Webber has fit that profile nicely for us.
"We also have, and will continue to have, Webber operate independently of FAUS. Yet, when an opportunity presents itself to join forces and be better together, we form a JV. Operating independently allows Webber to continue to successfully bid and execute traditional design-bid-build projects, which FAUS is not as well suited to execute in the U.S."
North Texas Project Boom
That strategy is coming into play in a major way with several projects in and around Dallas.
Two of FAUS/Webber's North Texas projects, the LBJ Express and the North Tarrant Express, represent nearly $5 billion in new infrastructure assets for the region, spanning 26 miles across nine municipalities and two counties, explains Daniel J. Filer, vice president of business development at FAUS.
"The NTE project is on track to finish this year, several months ahead of schedule," Filer says. "LBJ is not far behind it, and activity there will continue well into next year."
Collectively, a total of 300 companies have worked on the LBJ Express and NTE projects, "averaging over $3 million in construction a day," he says.
"Obviously, these two projects have a great deal to do with the increase in [our regional] revenues," he adds.
The LBJ Express I-635 Managed Lane Project is a $2.1-billion complex design-build project constructing approximately 13 miles of roadway that include six managed tolled lanes, eight general purpose non-tolled lanes and frontage roads.
Meanwhile, the North Tarrant Express (SH 183/Loop 820) is a $1.5-billion project that will provide eight to 10 lanes on I-820 and State Highways 121 and 183. Alongside NTE is the smaller North Tarrant Express Extension (I-35W), a $985-million, 6.5-mile design-build project on I-35W from north of I-30 to north of I-820, including the I-35W/I-820 interchange, which will start in the fourth quarter of this year.
"The result of such hard work and sophisticated management is being realized now in 2014, as we are completely opening NTE several months ahead of schedule and opening parts of LBJ ahead of expectations as well," Filer told ENR in an email interview. "The projects are extremely complicated and challenging, and our people have met those challenges."
These projects are also part of TxDOT's public-private-partnership (PPP) portfolio, with the LBJ and NTE projects being the first ones out of the gate.
Donna Huerta, public information officer for TxDOT's DFW Strategic Projects Office, says the projects were "kind of new pastures for us, so [the FAUS/Webber team was] very patient with us as we were with them to understand how this was going to work, how this relationship would be long-lasting and how to negotiate a contract that was actually sustainable for the 52 years that they were going to have the road."
And the Ferrovial team has also successfully set the stage for PPPs moving forward.
"In North Texas alone, just in PPPs, we're spending $11 billion on eight projects," Huerta says. "All of these will be finished, with the exception of the 360 Toll Road, by the end of 2018. We didn't even start LBJ until 2010. So in doing that many projects in that short a time for that amount of money, you can bet that it worked because of what we learned on the first ones. Now we can crank them out quickly, and we can thank our very first projects for that."
Safety and Community
Among the three projects in the DFW area, Ferrovial's team has logged 3,895,079 man-hours, counting subs, so far this year, says Heather DeLapp, regional public relations manager at FAUS. "With so many man-hours and so much complex work being done, we are proud to have an [incident rate] of only 0.533 for that same period," she says. "But we are always looking to improve. We are driving the teams to better safety records through comprehensive safety programs and training. Just this year, we have trained nearly 5,000 employees in safety. That is in addition to the thousands of hours of environmental and quality training."
Although these projects are massive in size and scale, Ferrovial also remains committed to the local communities in which it does business.
The NTE and LBJ Express project teams partnered with the National Math and Science Initiative in 2011 to establish an advanced placement math and science program in high-needs high schools along the NTE and LBJ highway corridors. "Through a five-year grant partnership, FAUS is encouraging young people to pursue STEM studies (science, technology, education and math) and highlighting future career opportunities," DeLapp says. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) gave the NTE project its award for excellence in community relations and public education.
Ferrovial is the top ranked public, design-build and transportation firm on ENR Texas & Louisiana's 2014 top contractor rankings, and the No. 1 ranked firm in the state of Texas. With all the momentum the firm has built up over the past few years, keeping that strength going will be a challenge.
"The Texas market remains a focus for both Webber and FAUS. We will continue to operate in our established markets of the region while also diversifying into other regions and market sectors," Filer says.
And the market will certainly help pave the way.
"I am not sure anyone 10 years ago would have believed we would see multiple $1-billion-plus deals flowing the way they are in Texas at the moment," Filer says. "The pipeline seems loaded, but competition is growing. Eventually, new companies coming to Texas will either establish this area as another home or they will find the next hot market."