As the strong regional economy attracts an influx of people into both states, infrastructure needs are increasing. Already in Louisiana, roadway improvements are expected in Lake Charles near the industrial complexes, mostly due to increases in truck traffic. West Texas is experiencing much the same thing, with heavy oil-and-gas haul trucks wearing down roadways. The increased need for highway repairs caused problems for the Texas Dept. of Transportation in 2013 as the agency struggled to fix aging roads on a constrained budget.
In Louisiana, the big water-control projects continue. The $700-million Permanent Canal Closures and Pumps project in New Orleans, for instance, is the last of the key pump stations to be rebuilt in the city. Major construction started at the end of 2013.
The passage in Texas of Prop. 6, which allows the use of $2 billion out of the state's Rainy Day Fund, should mean major investments will be forthcoming on water projects across the state. The big question remains: When will the funding become available?
Agencies change delivery, funding approaches
The number of design-build projects in Texas and Louisiana has been growing. In 2012, $9.5 billion in regional projects were completed using design-build, compared with $8.36 billion in 2013, according to McGraw Hill Analytics. Agencies such as TxDOT and the tollway authorities are among the owners who are making the biggest shifts in delivery methods. The North Texas Tollway Authority's $416-million President George Bush Turnpike Western Extension was the agency's first design-build project. It wrapped up in October 2012.
Meanwhile, TxDOT is facing a $4-billion funding gap to meet the transportation needs of the state and has turned to public-private partnerships to help finance and build billions of dollars in highway infrastructure. The LBJ Express project in Dallas, which moved to the excavation phase in November, is a recent example.
While the Louisiana Dept. of Transportation hasn't faced a serious funding shortage yet, it is nonetheless exploring more design-build delivery. If Texas' problems mirror regional trends, county and municipal agencies across both states could be looking for new funding solutions to build major projects.
Stadium work and hospital projects abound