The $2.5 billion North Tarrant Express (NTE) that will overhaul I-820 and SH Texas 121/183 in Tarrant County will be completed six months ahead of schedule. Project developer, NTE Mobility Partners (NTEMP), says construction is expected wrap up by the end of 2014, rather than June 2015.

Photo courtesy of NTE Mobility Partners
North Tarrant Express developer NTE Mobility Partners says construction on the project is expected wrap up by the end of 2014, rather than June 2015.

The 13-mile NTE project is an overhaul of Loop 820 and Texas 121/183, also referred to as Airport Freeway. The job begins at I-35W in Fort Worth and extends east to Industrial Boulevard in Euless. The construction of the project is being done by Bluebonnet Contractors, a joint venture between Ferrovial Agroman US Corp, a subsidiary of Spain’s Ferrovial, and Webber of Houston.

When open, the new roadway is expected to almost double the capacity of the traffic corridor through the improvement of existing lanes of traffic – six along SH 121/183 and four along I 820 – and the creation of four managed lanes. The managed lanes will be part of an ambitious TEXpress system across the Dallas/Fort Worth region.

NTEMP, a consortium comprised of Cintra US, Meridiam Infrastructure and the Dallas Police & Fire Pension System, was awarded the 52-year design/build/maintenance concession in 2009.  The project is one of a half-dozen public private partnership (P3) projects ongoing in the North Texas region valued at more than $8.35 billion.

The NTE effort was financed by leveraging a $573 million investment by the Texas Dept. of Transportation (TxDOT) through the use of a $650 million in TIFIA loans, $400 million in Private Activity Bonds and $426 million in equity from the consortium.

Construction began in November 2009. Design modifications permitted in the design-build contract helped bring the job in early – one major decision was build the managed lanes at grade level rather than elevated as the initial plans indicated – but aggressively managing the day-to-day logistics was the key difference maker.

 “Our collaborative teams – including technical design, construction and all of our subcontractors – operate in real-time, allowing them to address issues and implement changes in the field quickly so that no production time is lost,” explains Andy Foster, vice president of construction at Bluebonnet Contractors.

A prime example: relocation of existing utilities along the worksite. Due to the heavily populated location of the job, the project involved had to contend with about 475 conflicts involving more than one million linear feet of utilities as part of the project. Adding to the difficulty was the inability to perform the work sequentially due to some delayed right of way acquisitions.

The solution involved the use of an in-house technical design team that could respond to jobsite conditions and demands immediately.

“When our folks ran into problems in the field they could go back into the office and discuss it with the design team and, sometimes, be back out the next day with a different plan ready to go,” says NTE project spokeswoman Heather DeLapp.