Although the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed construction in numerous areas, one sector that has shown strength throughout the five-state region of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas is transportation, representing 19 of the 65 projects ranked on the annual Top Starts list.

A strong renewables showing, with four solar projects and three wind farms ranging from $1.6 billion to $138 million, is a marked contrast with previous years. Seven petrochemical-related projects were ranked in the top 10 alone last year. No petrochemical or pipeline projects were in 2020’s Top Starts—although ENR does not rank projects with confidential costs.

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ENR Texas & Louisiana 2020 Top Starts

The Texas Dept. of Transportation leads this year’s ranking by project value with the $1.7 billion IH 635 East project to expand 11 miles of one of Dallas’ busiest freeways—just one of the agency’s 15 projects populating the list (see related story, p. TXLA15). The Louisiana Dept. of Transportation and Development has two projects on the list, the largest being the $152-million I-10 Texas State Line to east of Coon Gully project that is expanding 10.5 miles of I-10. In Arkansas, the state’s DOT started its first design-build project in September, the $631-million first phase of 30 Crossing, a broader three-phase endeavor that will cost $1.3 billion. The project will reconstruct a 6.7-mile length of interstate through downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock.

Last March, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority began work on the $340-million Gilcrease Expressway West Project, which will complete the western loop around the Tulsa metro area. Rounding out the region but just missing out on the ranking was Mississippi DOT’s largest project of 2020—the $81-million Corridor V, which is a nearly nine-mile extension of SR 76 from SR 23 to SR 25.