Thursday, December 11, 2008

“The so-called managed lane project is the largest of its kind in the United States.”

Bids delayed on huge LBJ Freeway rebuilding project


The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2008

Bids on the massive reconstruction of the LBJ Freeway will not be submitted to the state by Monday as planned, a state transportation department official said today.

Instead, the deadline for a proposal to rebuild the eight lanes that currently comprise LBJ Freeway, plus six new toll lanes, has been pushed to Jan. 21, said John Hudspeth, LBJ project manager for TxDOT.

Construction on the project, which is expected to take five years, should still begin by mid-summer, he said. “Both teams needed more time,” he said, declining to provide the firms’ separate reasons for being behind schedule.

The project will be unlike any other in Dallas history. LBJ Freeway currently has three main lanes plus an HOV lane in each direction, and is among the most congested corridors in the United States.

The new project will replace those four main lanes with new lanes, but will not add any additional free lanes — despite traffic demand that suggests the state could build a total of 16 lanes in each direction just to satisfy current traffic demand. Instead, the firm that wins the contract will dig six toll lanes in the trench between the free lanes, and in part dig them underneath the free lanes. Those paid lanes will be the most expensive in North Texas, with rates during peaks times as high as 75 cents per mile, or more. The rates will rise and fall depending on how congested the eight free lanes are. During periods of heavy traffic, the paid lanes will be more expensive, with rates rising as high as necessary to keep traffic on the paid lanes light enough to avoid congestion.

The so-called managed lane project is the largest of its kind in the United States, and mirrors similar, though, smaller efforts, in Orange County, Calif. — where peak rates are $1 per mile — and the recently reopened Katy Freeway in Houston. The Houston toll road will operate similarly to the LBJ Freeway, though it only has two paid lanes in each direction. Rates for those lanes have not yet been set.

The project will cost at least $1.5 billion, Mr. Hudspeth said. TxDOT has asked the firms to submit bids that require no more than $700 million of state tax money to complete the project. The firms are expected to sink at least $800 million of their own money, or that of their partners, to complete the project. In return, the winning firm will own the right to the toll revenues for at least 52 years.

© 2008 The Dallas Morning News:

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