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Energy and Infrastructure - North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners

Category: General / 08 September 2014

North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners

Article by Jamie Morgan

There are many things to be impressed about regarding the 13.5-mile North Tarrant Express highway infrastructure project running through six northeast Tarrant County cities in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, region. Over the course of four years, the project has employed more than 2,400 people with up to 1,580 working within the construction zone at any one time. The project relied on a vast amount of Disadvantaged Business Enterprises and even exceeded federal requirements by executing 191 DBE contracts. In total, 172 companies directly worked on the project and helped tie 41 million pounds of rebar, excavate 4.72 million cubic yards of dirt and pour 450,000 cubic yards of concrete. 

When it is completed, the new North Tarrant Express will provide eight to 10 lanes on Interstate 820 (I-820) and State Highways (SH) 121 and 183. The project improves mobility by almost doubling the existing road capacity with a combination of general highway lanes and continuous frontage roads, along with managed toll (TEXpress) lanes. 

But what’s most impressive is how the project is coming together. It’s a process that many are watching.


Rather than going the traditional general contracting route, the Texas Department of Transportation, which owns the project, formed a public-private partnership agreement called a comprehensive development agreement (CDA) that dictates how the project was to be financed and constructed as well as how it will be operated and maintained in the future. TXDOT brought in integral partners from the private sector who have taken on the financial risk associated with constructing the project and managing the highway once construction is finished. 

The developer, North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners (NTEMP) is a consortium between Cintra US, Meridiam Infrastructure and the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System. NTEMP leveraged an initial $573 million investment by TXDOT, used $426 million of its own equity, raised $400 million in private activity bonds and received a $650 million federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan to finance the $2 billion project. The developer hired Bluebonnet Contractors – a joint venture between Ferrovial Agroman US and Webber LLC – to bring the project to fruition. 

“Investors such as Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Chase Bank and all of those institutions that are interested in setting up infrastructure funds are watching to see how this project is progressing and how it’s working and if the project is producing how it’s supposed to,” says Robert Hinkle, who manages corporate affairs for NTEMP. “It’s been a high-profile project because they want to know if this works as well as we say it does.” 

Those awaiting the outcome – both within the partnership and outside of it – have been pleasantly surprised. Through the use of design/build, Bluebonnet Contractors was able to compress what would be a 15-year project using traditional methods into a five-year project – and even that timeline was reduced by at least eight months.

“The contract date to finish is June 2015, but, as the project progressed, we could see that we would finish six months ahead of schedule putting us at December 2014,” says Heather DeLapp, public relations manager for Bluebonnet. “But it turns out we will finish even prior to that, putting the project eight to nine months ahead of schedule and the design/build aspect really plays into that.”

Using the design/build model was integral to completing many of the project’s simultaneous tasks. When Bluebonnet began optimizing the design in 2010, several utility projects were underway and the developer was busy acquiring 390 parcels necessary to build the new project. During the process, the construction team ran into 475 total utility conflicts totaling more than 1 million linear feet of utilities that had to be relocated all while keeping the expressway open to traffic for the duration of the project. 

“There are anywhere from 175,000 to 200,000 vehicles traveling through that corridor on a daily basis, so as a commitment, we had to maintain traffic during construction,” DeLapp says. “We couldn’t shut down at any time but we still had to build pavement, drop in infrastructure and relocate utilities all while still acquiring right of way. 

“Being able to accomplish that and complete the project eight to nine months ahead of schedule is pretty substantial,” she adds.  
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