The first section of the $2.7 billion Interstate 635 upgrade, which includes a new TEXpress managed lane system, will open on Dec. 14. Meanwhile, construction work on the rest of the project, known as the LBJExpress, now moves into the technically challenging excavation phase.

Construction began in spring 2011 and is more than half complete. The projected completion date is in December 2015.

The I-635 corridor is one of the most congested major highways in the state. About 250,000 vehicles use the corridor daily and by 2020 that number is expected to exceed half a million.

In February 2009, the LBJ Infrastructure Group was awarded the contract for the job by the Texas Department of Transportation. The financial close was concluded in June 2010 and work began six months later. LBJIG is composed of Cintra U.S., Meridiam Infrastructure Finance and Dallas Police and Fire Pension system. As a public-private-partnership (P3), the state agency owns the project, but LBJIG will finance operate and maintain it for 52 years.

The work on the project is being performed by Trinity Infrastructure, LLC; comprised of Austin-based Ferrovial Agroman US Corp. and WW Webber of The Woodlands, Texas.

According to LBJIG Board Chairman David Laney, the use of the innovative financing has allowed projects such as the LBJExpress to go forward despite the decline in state revenues dedicated for transportation infrastructure.

"It allows us to build the most critical project now rather that in a decade or more in the future if ever," he says.

TxDOT was able to leverage almost $500 million for the project through the P3 structure. The concessionaire, LBJIG, provided $664 million in private equity. Approximately $850 million in Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans were obtained as well as $615 million in tax-exempt, unwrapped Private Activity Bonds (PABs) – the largest amount ever for a US toll road concession.