As the Lone Star State's economy and population have exploded in recent years, so too have the demands on its transportation infrastructure.

At the forefront of the effort to meet those needs is the Texas Dept. of Transportation (TxDOT). From its headquarters in Austin, the agency oversees more than 80,000 miles of roadways in the state and regulates railroads, aviation and ports.

Texas' recent boom has prompted not just a flurry of construction under the agency's purview but also an evolving approach to the procurement processes for those projects.

For its work to refine performance-based requirements that balance risk sharing on projects while enhancing relationships with contractors and developers, ENR Texas & Louisiana has named TxDOT its 2014 Owner of the Year.

A Business of Building Relationships

In the past two decades, TxDOT has increasingly emphasized the use of innovative procurement methods such as public private partnerships (P3s) and design-build. Today, TxDOT has more than $22 billion in projects under way across the state that feature alternative funding, which has helped to trim the state's direct construction tab to just $6 billion.

In addition to allowing TxDOT to leverage limited public funds with private-sector investment, the approach is also effective in allocating risks to the parties best able to manage them, while also integrating a life-cycle mind-set to initial design and construction decisions. The result is an optimal business environment for both contractors and developers.

"Strong and healthy relationships between TxDOT and contractors create an 'open for business' framework within the state, and within the national and even international construction industry," says Russell Zapalac, TxDOT's chief planning and project officer.

The beneficial effects are cyclical. By maintaining strong relationships with contractors and developers, TxDOT is fostering a vibrant pool of interested parties for its projects and developing an attractive, competitive bidding environment. This in turn helps the agency achieve expedited delivery of urgently needed infrastructure at competitive costs.

TxDOT's emphasis on building relationships dovetails effectively with the efforts of groups promoting infrastructure initiatives such as the North Texas Council of Governments (NTCOG). It cites TxDOT's evolving approach as a key asset in selling the state's construction opportunities.