North Tarrant Express, United States of America
The North Tarrant Express (NTE) project is a 21.4km-long highway improvement project aimed to improve mobility along the Interstate 820 and the Texas State Highway 121/183 (Airport Freeway) corridor in the US. The project lies in the Dallas-Fort Worth region between Interstate 35 West and Industrial Boulevard in Northeast Tarrant County.
Construction on the $2.5bn project started in November 2010 and was completed in October 2014.
North Tarrant County is one of the fastest growing regions in Texas. It was found out that the Dallas-Fort Worth commuters spend, on an average, 48h a year stuck in traffic. These delays were due to some of the bottlenecks on the Interstate 820 and the State Highway 121/183 corridor.
In order to keep up with the region's more than six million residents and anticipated traffic growth, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) constructed the 21.7km stretch of the highway. It generated more than 2,500 jobs.
The NTE project details
The NTE project comprised a series of highway improvements along the Interstate 820 and the State Highway 121/183 (Airport Freeway) corridor in Northeast Tarrant County. The highway had four general purpose lanes, two in each direction.
In the new scheme, the highway was rebuilt with three general purpose lanes and two toll-managed lanes in each direction. Frontage roads were also constructed to accommodate future traffic volumes.
Two additional toll-free general purpose lanes are planned to be added by 2030.
Other components of the project included the reconstruction of interchanges, and maintenance and upgrade of the existing toll-free facilities.
The project was undertaken in two segments. Segment one stretches 10.30km on Interstate 820 between Interstate 35 West and Northeast interchange. The 11.10km segment two runs between Northeast interchange and Industrial Blvd.
The project provided relief from congestion by raising road capacity along the corridor. Additional benefits include improved safety, reliability and air quality, as well as reduced carbon footprint.
Contractors involved in the important Texas-based highway improvement
The request for comprehensive development agreement (CDA) proposals for the project was authorised by the Texas Transportation Commission in March 2006.
In June 2009, TxDOT awarded the CDA contract to NTE Mobility Partners (NTEMP). NTEMP is a consortium of Cintra US, Meridiam Infrastructure and Dallas Police and Fire Pension System (DPFPS) and WW Webber.
The NTEMP consortium was responsible for designing, building and financing the project. It also operates and maintains the roadway for a period of 52 years.
Subcontractors included Ferrovial Agromán, WW Webber, Earth Tech, Maunsell Australia Proprietary Limited Aguirre & Fields, Ross Communications, Bluebonnet Contractors, Aecom and CSJ Engineering Associates.
North Tarrant Express financing
Finances for the project were obtained in December 2009 and approval to begin detailed work was also received in the same month.
The project was financed from various sources. Approximately $400m was financed through private activity bonds. Contributions from TxDOT / public funds included $573m. NTEMP provided $427m in the form of private equity. A loan of $650m was secured from the federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA).
TIFIA's loan will be repaid from revenues generated by the project.
Tolling system on the congestion-relieving NTE
The efficiency of the highway corridor is improved by allowing motorists to bypass congestion in free general purpose lanes by taking the toll-managed lanes.
The managed lanes have a modern all-electronic toll collection system, with no barriers. This ensures a seamless, free-flow operation of the tolled lanes. Based on demand, the toll charges are set dynamically and vary throughout the day.
North Texas Tollway Authority provides the toll collection services. The lanes are installed with electronic toll collection office systems supplied by Indra Sistemas, a Spanish information technology and defence systems provider. Interoperable electronic cards such as TxTAG, TollTag and EasyPass are used for toll collection.