Infrastructure and energy projects dominated the Top Starts list for the five-state region of Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Arkansas in 2017.

Near the top of the list were two athletic facilities in Texas, where 22 of the region’s top 30 projects were located. Also included in the list were six medical projects, one each in Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi, plus three in Texas.

The starts are ranked by self-reported total project value, and those project teams that were unable or unwilling to disclose total project value were not included on the final list.

The largest 2017 start is the New Yuhuang Chemical Methanol Plant, a $1.85-billion project by Yuhuang Chemical Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Heze City, China-based Shandong Yuhuang Chemical Co. Ltd. Scheduled for completion in late 2019, the natural gas to methanol plant, under construction on 1,300 acres in Vacherie, 50 miles west of New Orleans, is expected to produce 1.7 million metric tons a year of methanol. That would make it the largest such facility in the U.S. and the largest-ever Chinese investment in Louisiana’s chemical manufacturing industry.

Ranked second on the list is the Valley Crossing Pipeline in South Texas, a $1.5-billion project being built by Valley Crossing Pipeline LLC, a part of Enbridge Inc., Calgary, Canada. Scheduled for completion in October 2018, the 168-mile line will transport natural gas to the CFE—Mexico’s state-owned utility, which serves nearly 37 million customers—and to other distributors across South Texas.

“This additional access to vital supplies of clean-burning natural gas will promote economic development along the project route and in the region,” says Valley Crossing Pipeline spokesman Devin Hotzel. “Valley Crossing’s transportation services will provide new market opportunities for Texas gas producers and help Mexico meet its growing electric generation needs as generators shift away from fuel oil and imported LNG.”

The $1.28-billion S.H. 99 (Grand Parkway), Segments H, I-1 and I-2 Project, covering 50-plus miles of roadways around northeast Houston, was ranked No. 3 on the list. The project stretches from U.S. 59/69 on the north end to S.H. 146 in Baytown on the south side. Grand Parkway Infrastructure, Humble, Texas, a joint venture of Ferrovial Agroman US Corp., Webber LLC and Granite Construction Inc., expect the Texas Dept. of Transportation project to finish in spring 2022.

ENR Texas & Louisiana 2017 Top Starts

Starts Total Up From 2016

The top 25 projects for 2017 totaled $13.5 billion, up from the 2016 figure of $12.6 billion.

“In general, the region encompassing Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Oklahoma is strengthening,” says Anirban Basu, chief economist, Associated Builders & Contractors, and CEO of Sage Policy Group Inc. in Baltimore. “While energy prices are not high by historic standards, they are considerably higher than they were two years ago.

“Business confidence is up, which suggests that business investment is set to rise more rapidly,” Basu adds. “Recently enacted corporate tax cuts will particularly help corporation-rich Texas and Oklahoma. The next two years are setting up to be busy for contractors. There are even signs of accelerating infrastructure investment in a number of categories.”

He notes, however, that “risks associated with rising inflation and interest rates are building, and the recovery may not last much beyond 2019.”

Sixth on the list is the 980-MW St. Charles Power Station by Entergy Louisiana. The $869-million project is located in Montz, about 30 miles west of New Orleans. Commercial operation is expected to begin in mid-2019 for the combined-cycle natural gas power plant.

Nearly 850 people are constructing the plant, and once the unit is complete, Entergy Louisiana expects to employ 31 people, including 20 production technicians, says Phillip May, president and CEO of Entergy Louisiana. “Ongoing operations of the plant will generate an estimated $26 million in new business sales and $15.4 million in new household earnings annually across the state,” he says.

In Big Lake, Texas, the sustainable Santa Rita Wind Farm, a $350-million project by Chicago-based Invenergy LLC, should begin delivering power to Denton Municipal Electric on Jan. 1, 2019. The plant will use 120 GE 2.5-MW turbines to generate enough power for 70,000 homes, the company says.

Five projects on this year’s Top Starts list are in the infrastructure category.

The $540-million Vista Ridge Water Supply Pipeline Project will serve seven counties—from Burleson County to San Antonio—with 140 miles of pipe, three pump stations, a cooling tower, 18 wells, seven miles of well collection lines and a 10-million-gallon tank.

The 50,000 acre-ft of water will provide San Antonio with 20% of the city’s current annual water demand, making it the largest public-private partnership water project in U.S. history, the company says. Design-build contractor Garney Construction, working from its San Antonio office, expects to complete the project in 2020 for the Central Texas Regional Water Supply Corp.

Three Texas highway projects were included in the infrastructure work.

In addition to Grand Parkway, the $191-million U.S. 281 Expansion Project in San Antonio includes construction of non-tolled general purpose lanes, HOV/transit lanes and frontage roads, a connection to the new VIA Metropolitan Transit U.S. 281 and four interchange direct connectors at Loop 1604. Construction is scheduled for completion in October 2020 by the contractor, Webber LLC, The Woodlands, Texas, and construction engineer/inspector VRX Inc., Plano, Texas.

The $191-million design-bid-build IH 45 Reconstruction Project at New Waverly in Walker County will expand the existing interstate to six travel lanes and replace existing bridges, drainage structures and frontage roads. Webber LLC and the Dallas office of AECOM expect to complete work by March 2021.

Other Market Sectors

In Luling, La., the $975-million Monsanto Plant and Office Facility Expansion is scheduled for completion in mid- to late 2019. It is being led by Jacobs’ Houston and Baton Rouge offices.

Two large manufacturing plants in La Porte, Texas, about 26 miles east of Houston, are seventh and eighth on this year’s list.

LyondellBasell’s $700-million Hyperzone polyethylene plant should be complete by 2019. It will produce 1.1 billion lb annually of polyethylene. At peak, as many as 1,000 construction jobs were created as well as 75 permanent jobs, the company says.

With a capacity of 1 billion lb annually, the $675-million Delta polypropylene production plant should be complete in the first quarter 2020. General contractor Linde Group, Munich, Germany, is working with the owner, Braskem America, a subsidiary of Braskem S.A., Philadelphia, to build the largest manufacturing line in the U.S. for polypropylene.

One of the two Texas sports facilities on the list is Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, which is a $540-million project under construction led by the Beck Group; it should be complete in November 2019.

“Dickies Arena will be a state-of-the-art venue for events of all kinds, including concerts, sports, graduation ceremonies and the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo,” says Scot Bennett, regional director at Beck.

Four states will gain new medical facilities, including the $360-million University of Oklahoma Medical Center-Adult Bed Tower project in Oklahoma City. It is scheduled for a July 2020 completion by the Dallas office of Turner Construction Co. The cast-in-place, 463,000-sq-ft expansion and addition will be Oklahoma’s only Level 1 trauma center.

Another medical project is the University of Mississippi Medical Center Children’s Hospital Expansion & Clinic Addition in Jackson—a 370,000-sq-ft, seven-story tower scheduled to open in fall 2020. Construction manager Brasfield & Gorrie, Jackson, is overseeing the $180-million project.