The holidays came early for riders of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit light rail system. DART opened the first 5.4-mile phase of its new Orange Line in July—five months ahead of schedule. Nine miles of the 14-mile project were set to be completed in December, but the design-build team—in DART's first use of the approach—rallied for an early delivery.

The opening coincided with the 15th Annual Transportation & Infrastructure Summit and 5th Annual Global High-Speed Rail Forum held at the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas on Aug. 14-17. The new section includes a station at the convention center.

"This opening was not coincidental," says Tim McKay, DART's executive vice president of growth and regional development. DART hosted a celebration at the event, including a parade from the Dallas/ Fort Worth International Airport. "We wanted to do something a bit unusual, and everybody loves a parade," he says.

The Orange Line will run parallel to DART's Green Line through downtown Dallas to the city's northwest area and the Las Colinas Urban Center. Ultimately, the lines will connect to a terminal at DFW Airport. The project also includes construction of five stations.

DART awarded a $430-million design-build contract for the first nine miles and the five stations in December 2008 to a joint venture led by Kiewit of Omaha, Neb. Other team members include: Stacy and Witbeck of Alameda, Calif.; Reyes Engineering Inc. of Portland, Ore.; and Parsons Corp. of Pasadena, Calif.

The team delivered three stations and the first part of the line that connects to the convention center station in time for a July 30 opening. The second phase will bring the line to the southern tip of DFW Airport and is scheduled to open in December. The final five-mile leg of the Orange Line that will connect to Terminal A at the airport is set for completion in late 2014. The joint venture was awarded a $149.7-million design-build contract for the final phase late last year, and construction is under way.

Design-Build Decision

DART's foray into design-build was enabled for its projects when the Texas Legislature enacted House Bill 1886 into law in June 2007.

"If the Orange Line is not the first project to go under the law, it was certainly one of the larger ones," McKay says.

DART opted for design-build because "we wanted better certainty for cost of the project" in an unpredictable market, McKay says. "We were also looking for speed in order to take advantage of the marketplace and to get this project built quickly."