The $1.6 billion Southeast Connector project was awarded to South-Point Constructors, a joint-venture consisting of Kiewit Infrastructure South Co. and Austin Bridge & Road, last spring.
(Photo courtesy of TxDOT.)
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), which is overseeing a major multi-billion dollar expansion of the state's highway network via road and bridge construction, officially launched a new highway project in the Fort Worth/Dallas area (Tarrant County) and marked the completion of another.
In a morning ceremony, local and state officials broke ground on the Southeast Connector project in southeast Tarrant County. A few hours later in southern Dallas, Texas Transportation Commission Chairman J. Bruce Bugg Jr. and others cut the ribbon for the completion of the Southern Gateway, a five-year, $666 million project that rebuilt and widened I-35E from Colorado Boulevard to U.S. 67 and widened U.S. 67 from I-35E to I-20.
Southeast Connector Project
The $1.6 billion Southeast Connector project was awarded to South-Point Constructors, a joint-venture consisting of Kiewit Infrastructure South Co. and Austin Bridge & Road, last spring. The project consists of rebuilding and widening 11.1 mi. of I-20 and I-820. Interstate 20 is being widened to 10 mainlanes from I-820 to U.S. 287; and I-820 to eight mainlanes from I-20 to Ramey Avenue. The I-20, I-820 and U.S. 287 interchanges are being completely reconstructed. It also includes improvements to exit and entrance ramps to meet current design standards, frontage roads, as well as additional sidewalks and shared use paths for pedestrians and bicycles.
"This project will represent the largest investment in transportation infrastructure in the history of TxDOT's Fort Worth district," said TxDOT spokesperson Val Lopez. "This highly anticipated project will tie in the east and southeast part of Tarrant County to the central part of the county while relieving congestion. It's not only important for Tarrant County and Fort Worth, but also facilitates trade, increases safety, and improves efficiency for the entire Metroplex."
According to South-Point Constructors Project Director Jay Knez, the team is well equipped to take on this historic project.
"Our team's extensive infrastructure experience in design-build highway work — and long-time partnership with TxDOT — create a strong foundation to manage the design and construction of the job," he said.
South-Point Constructors is also taking on the role as the design-build integrator and lead maintenance firm. AECOM Technical Services Inc. will lead the engineering aspect and Lamb-Star Engineering LLC will provide independent quality services.
"We look forward to supporting the team with our extensive local expertise and global reach in producing high-quality solutions for transportation clients," Jennifer Aument, chief executive of AECOM's global Transportation business, told the media.
The location of the three highways partially explains the need for the upgrade, with Lake Arlington being a critical factor. The lake was established in the1950s as a source of drinking water for the large area. Over time, the population in the area increased and the development of the road and highway system was based on the topography, and thus lacked a certain logical order.
On a daily basis more than 250,000 cars and trucks traverse the corridor.
Careful planning has allowed the South-Point Constructors to anticipate some of the challenges and plan accordingly.
"Working near and among high volume traffic areas presents major challenges, as does working at night inside traffic closures," said Jay Proskovec, South-Point Constructors public information coordinator. "Working alongside TxDOT our goal is to keep the community well informed and to ensure that everyone on and around construction operations is safe."
Close to 50 percent of the design has been completed to date.
"Good coordination and communication between the different disciplines and design firms has been key to our progress thus far. It has allowed us to make sure all design elements are properly integrated due to the pace of design," said Proskovec.
Major construction is expected to start in March 2023 at the I-20 corridor from the I-820 interchange through Forest Hill Drive, along with the I-20/I-820 interchange.
"Initial construction will focus on getting traffic into temporary configurations that allow construction of mainlanes to begin," said Proskovec. "Utility relocations also will begin throughout the corridor in January 2023 and will continue through 2025."
Water and sewer lines will be relocated for the four municipalities within the project limits, which include Arlington, Forest Hill, Fort Worth and Kennedale. The relocations will be performed by both South-Point Constructors crews and the utility owners.
The project will employ 1,000 people at peak construction, which will include craft, field supervision, staff and subcontractors.
Southern Gateway Project
The project was delivered by Pegasus Link Constructors, which brought together Balfour Beatty U.S. and Fluor, an engineering and general contracting firm, in a joint venture.
State Sen. Royce West is very pleased that Southern Gateway is now a reality.
"The Southern Gateway illustrates how a highway project can help reconnect and enhance communities," he said. "Planning for this project began more than a decade ago and I appreciate the opportunity to have guided TxDOT's effort to give the community and stakeholders a voice on the final vision that we see today. This project, which finished on time and on budget, will serve southern Dallas well for decades to come."
The design-build project dealt with 11 mi., covering I-35E south of downtown Dallas, U.S. 67 between I-35E and I-20 and the I-35E/U.S. 67 split. The improvements included the reconstruction of reversible non-tolled express lanes that are open to all users, including SOVs (single occupancy vehicles), HOVs (high occupancy vehicles) and/or general purpose lanes to improve capacity in the corridor. Crews also built structural elements and accommodations for the city of Dallas' planned deck plaza between Ewing and Marsalis avenues.
Construction began in early 2018 and was completed on Sept. 1.
"As roadway builders, Pegasus Link Constructors' presence in downtown Dallas and southern Dallas County in the past decade testifies to our project team's commitment to working with our client, TxDOT, and project partners to get the job done, on time and within budget," said Daniel Young, Pegasus's director of construction. "PLC was able to push through during challenging times and consistently maintain a locally sourced labor force of more than 600 staff and craft employees during the peak of construction, and eventually cross the much-anticipated finish line, leading us to today's ribbon cutting celebration."
Leon Blondin, Balfour Beatty U.S." CEO is proud of his company's contribution.
"Congratulations to the Balfour Beatty project team and joint venture partners in providing a long-term, transformative highway solution for one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the nation," he said. "The completion of the Southern Gateway is just another example of our team's expertise in delivering complex construction projects across the country and our ongoing commitment to achieving our client's, stakeholders and local communities' transportation."
Thomas Nilsson, president of Infrastructure Business of Fluor, was in agreement.
"This is one of the many vital infrastructure projects to improve the I-35 corridor in Dallas in response to business and population expansion in one of the country's most dynamic regions," he said. "The reconstruction provides traffic congestion relief, improved safety and increased mobility. This project builds on Fluor's history of successfully delivering vital infrastructure in Texas and reinforces the strength of our commitment to our state and local partners."
Prior to the construction, TxDOT estimated that about 192,000 vehicles traveled through southern Dallas County daily.
"I-35E in the Southern Gateway corridor is consistently ranked as one of the most congested roadways in Texas according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute," states the project web page.
The construction impacted traffic as I-35E and U.S. 67 are both major corridors to and from southern Dallas County and surrounding cities, but through careful planning, TxDOT kept disruptions to a minimum.
Pegasus Link Constructors was awarded the project in fall 2017 and construction began in early 2018, with operations proceeding on a 24/7 basis.
"Crews had no major challenges that were unforeseen," said Tony Hartzel, TxDOT's director of northeast Texas communications. "The job was very challenging to maintain traffic during construction while building the new roadway lanes in a tight right of way footprint. The TxDOT project team worked very closely with the Pegasus Link Constructors team, which also was the design-build contractor on the Horseshoe project in downtown Dallas that finished about five years ago. Any issues were always resolved in a timely manner. The project was completed on time, thanks to the collaboration among all parties."
The project expanded the roadway in essentially the same footprint.
"The work space was tight, but manageable," said Hartzel. "Initially, TxDOT anticipated having to acquire over 12 acres of ROW along the project corridor. In 2015, however, the proposed ROW footprint was modified in order to limit negative construction impacts to the surrounding community. The design change reduced the additional ROW acquisition to just 3.6 acres — roughly a fourth of what was proposed in the original 2003 schematic. This meant that the contractor team had to develop a traffic control plan that would shift lanes safely and allow for all construction to be completed within this limited ROW width."
"All bridges were reconstructed along the I-35E portion of the project, and widening of existing bridges along the U.S. 67 portion to accommodate the new lanes," said Hartzel. "All the cross street bridges on I-35E include widened sidewalks and pedestrian accommodations following the city of Dallas' complete streets plan."
The initiative was successful due to serious cooperation.
"The project resulted from extensive collaboration in the community before construction, and the success is due to the close collaboration TxDOT has with Pegasus Link Constructors," said Hartzel. "At its peak, the contractor was maintaining a locally sourced labor force of more than 600 staff and craft employees during the peak of construction and performing $10-to-15 million worth of work in a month."
Clear Lanes Program
The Texas Clear Lanes program was initiated to reduce congestion throughout the state by focusing planning and construction efforts on the Top 100 Most Congested Roads in major metropolitan areas of Dallas, Ft. Worth, Austin, San Antonio and Houston. Funding for it was approved in 2014 and 2015 by Texas voters.
Thus far $61.3 billion in projects have been completed, are under construction, and in the planning stage.
"More than a dozen projects have been completed statewide and The Southern Gateway is the fifth North Texas project to be completed," states the press release. "The region has completed $1.2 billion in projects to date, with another $5.1 billion under construction and $3.3 billion in planning."
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