Urban Texas represents the engine of the state’s dynamic economy, as well as our most crucial — and most expensive — mobility challenge.
But even with funding increases passed in the 2013 and 2015 legislative sessions, resources available for vital urban mobility projects fall short.
To no one’s surprise, congestion in Texas cities continues to worsen. Wasted time, wasted fuel and lost opportunity should concern us all.
Texas A&M University’s Transportation Institute recently reported that during 2014 congestion in major Texas cities resulted in drivers wasting more than 274 million gallons of fuel and nearly 612 million extra hours, 43 extra hours per driver. Total statewide losses: $14.2 billion.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area bears about a third of the statewide burden.
How can Texas address its urban mobility challenge more quickly, while optimizing Texas’ limited transportation resources?
A proven solution exists. Roughly a decade ago, our Legislature authorized the use of public-private partnerships (“P3s”), enabling the Texas Department of Transportation to leverage limited public funds with private investment to develop our most vital, complex and expensive transportation projects years ahead of conventional methods.
This month, Texas’ largest and most ambitious P3 project to date, the LBJ Express in Dallas County, opens three months ahead of schedule.
The LBJ Express P3 model is already a proven success in Texas. The $2.1 billion North Tarrant Express in Tarrant County opened ahead of schedule in October 2014, doubling highway capacity along the severely congested Interstate 820 and Texas 121/183 corridors.
The LBJ roadway first opened in 1967; 30 years later it had become synonymous with congestion delays and safety concerns in the minds of DFW area drivers.
After years with no viable solutions, the transportation department’s 2009 award of the project as a P3 model ensured its completion at least a decade earlier than conventional methods.
LBJ project attracted the most highly accomplished and creative design, construction and financing teams in the world.
The competition leading to the LBJ project award attracted the most highly accomplished and creative design, construction and financing teams in the world. Notably, it also assured the lowest project cost available.
The transportation department contributed $490 million to the LBJ project, 30 percent less than the $700 million that had been reserved for the roadway and only 18 percent of the total project cost.
In exchange, the state receives a $2.7 billion transportation asset with all operating and maintenance costs covered by the operator for the next 50 years.
Texas owns the roadway; the operator assumes all design, construction and financial risk — no small benefit considering the project’s size and complexity.
Funds the state saves by minimizing its investment and eliminating operating and maintenance costs now support other important mobility projects.
LBJ Express represents a total reconstruction of the original roadway to state-of-the-art standards, adding capacity and length to frontage roads that allow drivers to bypass intersections, and providing the choice of dedicated, express toll lanes in each direction for the entire 13 miles of the project that assure minimum speeds no less than 50 mph.
The new LBJ Express will transform mobility in and around a corridor vital to one of the most dynamic urban economies in the U.S.
Texas’ economic success presents urban mobility challenges that demand bold and comprehensive strategies that reduce construction schedules and optimize available resources.
See for yourself: drive the LBJ or NTE. The P3 model represents the most powerful mobility strategy available today for Texas cities and our expanding urban economy.
David Laney is a former chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission and Amtrak. He serves on the boards of the LBJ Infrastructure Group and NTE Mobility Partners.