All Systems Go for DFW Connector
Photo: NorthGate Constructors

The $1.02-billion DFW Connector project, designed to relieve congestion and double traffic capacity on 8.4 mi of state highways 121 and 114, gets under way in earnest Feb. 15. “Work zone” signs are already posted and some speed limits reduced on the corridor through Southlake, Grapevine and the north edge of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, where roads will be rebuilt and expanded, ultimately doubling capacity from 12 to 24 lanes.

NorthGate Constructors, a joint venture led by Kiewit Texas Construction, Fort Worth, and Zachry Construction, San Antonio, won the contract last year from the Texas Dept. of Transportation to design and rebuild the corridor, one of the biggest freeway projects in North Texas. Once completed—in 2014—TxDOT will own and operate the connector.

The project will be funded entirely by public funds--$667 million in public gas taxes, $250 million in ARRA funds and $107 million in bond proposals for right-of-way acquisitions.

Selma Stockstill, NorthGate’s spokeswoman and a Kiewit employee, says TxDOT was committed from the get-go to public funding.

“The DFW Connector project was not only a regional but state priority for [TxDOT],” she says. “The Texas Transportation Commission approved the funding and determined the use of AARA funding was important.”

The decision, Stockstill adds, “illustrates the process the Texas Transportation Commission went through in determining its priorities and shows the high statewide priority the project has.”

No estimate was available on how many jobs the construction might create, but it will take “approximately 4 million labor hours to complete the project,” according to TxDOT.

Ultimate goals of the project are to improve safety, mobility and air quality along the DFW Connector.

Normally TxDOT would have designed the DFW Connector project, and then requested bids. It used a comprehensive development agreement to award the entire project to NorthGate Constructors. The CDA is the eighth executed by TxDOT since 2002, and allows NorthGate to “design, build and construct” the connector. A CDA is a tool TxDOT to enable private investments in Texas transportation systems.

While the DFW Connector is publicly funded, TxDOT considers the design-build contract a type of private-public partnership, though not a concession-model CDA like the $1.5-billion SH 130 project, a Central Texas Turnpike System project that was the first to use a CDA as a design-build tool. The nearly 5-mi Central Texas project was built in four years by the Lone Star Infrastructure joint venture, and completed last year.

The 8-mi DFW Connector project will rebuild portions of four highways, two interchanges and five bridges.

New direct-connect ramps will be built from northbound SH 360/121 to westbound SH 114, and from eastbound SH 114/121 to southbound SH 360/121. At the widest point along SH 114, the highway corridor will be more than 20 lanes wide.