The Texas Department of Transportation has reached a tentative, $1.6 billion deal with a private developer to expand Interstate 35W in north Fort Worth. The work is expected to begin in mid-2013 and be completed by mid-2018.
The stretch of I-35W in northern Tarrant County is the most congested roadway in the state, according to a report released by the state transportation department in late August.
A draft version of the agreement between the transportation department and the developer, North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners, will be available for public inspection at 6 p.m. Thursday at the TxDot Fort Worth District Regional Training Center, 2501 Southwest Loop 820, Fort Worth (map below).
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The developer, also known as NTE Mobility Partners (or NTEMP), is currently developing the $2.5 billion North Tarrant Express project, which includes expansion of Loop 820 and Texas 121/183 in Northeast Tarrant County.
If the agreement is finalized, NTE Mobility Partners will add I-35W to the North Tarrant Express work. The new arrangement will be titled NTE Mobility Partners Segments 3 LLC (NTEMP3).
The new work would include rebuilding existing lanes and adding two managed toll lanes in each direction of I-35W from Interstate 30 near downtown Fort Worth to the U.S. 287 split south of Alliance Airport.
The public meeting Thursday is "a very important step" in trying to get the I-35W improvements designed and under construction by mid-2013, transportation department spokesman Tony Hartzel said. After hearing from the public, the transportation department will then finalize the agreement and submit it to the Legislative Budget Board and attorney general's office.
The transportation department annually produces a report on Texas's "100 Most Congested Roadways," and this year's edition concluded that the I-35W stretch in north Fort Worth was the worst in the state - causing motorists to collectively waste more than 2 million hours.
The improvements to I-35W proposed in the draft agreement would cut that delay by more than a third, officials said.
"Texans have better things to do than to sit in traffic, and that's why we're proud to partner with the private sector to speed up a critical transportation project," Phil Wilson, transportation department executive director, said in a statement.
The developer would build and maintain the portion of the road from I-30 to Loop 820 until 2061 - and keep tolls generated on the managed toll lanes during those years. The state transportation department would build the portion of the road from north of Loop 820 to U.S. 287 at an estimated cost of $234 million, but then turn over that portion of the road to the developer, too.
Funding for the work comes from several pots. The North Central Texas Council of Governments has committed $89.5 million, as well as a possible additional $40.5 million for project contingencies, according to the state transportation department.
The U.S. Transportation Department has invited the developer to apply for a federal loan of up to $537 million under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). The developer would then chip in $273 million in private activity bonds and $446 million in equity.
The agreement would also cover maintenance costs.
If the final agreement is reached by early 2013, the construction could begin by mid-2013 and be substantially completed by mid-2018.
“We have been working together with the state for the past three years designing and building the first phase of the North Tarrant Express project, and look forward to getting this next segment along I-35W in Fort Worth underway,” Nicolas Rubio, president of Cintra US, said in a statement released by the state transportation department. “This is one of the most traffic congested areas in the United States, and we are proud to further serve the cities, region and state through our involvement in this public-private partnership as we all strive toward better mobility and a greater quality of life.”