I have returned from a fantastic week covering the International Transport Forum in Leipzig, Germany. Here's a story that ran in the Wednesday's edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about the 54 nations approving a declaration in support of private investment in roads. Among the speakers was a chief executive at MacQuarie Group Ltd., one of the world's top private transportation investment firms - and he said the universe of pension, equity and other funds available for investment in infrastructure for pretty much any nation that wants to take advantage of it is in the neighborhood of $27 TRILLION.
That's so-o-o- much money, one has to wonder if it's enough to literally solve the world's congestion problems ... or at least put a serious dent in them. But do we want that much private investment in roads? Do we want any more investment than we already have?
I found the trip to Germany to be a fantastic learning experience, and over the next several weeks I hope to write some more stories that explore these funding issues.
In the mean time, please consider these initial stories a conversation starter, and send me a note to email@example.com if you'd like to ask any questions or suggest a story idea.
p.s. To pay for the trip to Germany, I was one of 35 journalists from around the globe (3 in the U.S) awarded a grant from the International Transport Forum's media travel programme.
One particularly heart-tugging image seen in some highway work zones is an orange sign bearing the message: "Please slow down. My dad works here."
"We want the public to crank up their awareness," said Lonny Haschel, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman.
Haschel joined officials from the North Texas Tollway Authority and Texas Department of Transportation on Tuesday at a work zone site along Interstate 20. Speaking on a newly built bridge over the interstate, the group called for motorists to bear greater responsibility for their actions on the road.
"There is over $11 billion in construction in the North Texas area, with more on the way," said Brian Barth, Fort Worth deputy district engineer for the state transportation department. "Your daily commute to work and school is changing on a daily basis and we need every driver to stay alert."
Work zone fatalities have fallen 39 percent during the past decade, said Elizabeth Mow, tollway authority assistant executive director of infrastructure.
Still, last year 134 people were killed statewide in work zone crashes.
"We need the public's help to complete the picture," Mow said.
Speeding and driver inattention are the leading causes of work zone fatalities, Haschel said.
Distractions such as talking or texting on a mobile device are also a major problem, Barth said.
National Work Zone Safety Awareness week is this week. The groups chose Tuesday's site for their press conference because it is part of the Chisholm Trail Parkway project, a 28-mile toll road from downtown Fort Worth to Cleburne that is scheduled to open next year.
The Chisholm Trail Parkway project has created work zones across a swath of southwestern Tarrant County, crossing Interstate 30, I-20, Hulen Street and Texas 183 (Southwest Boulevard).
Posted at 01:20 PM in 35W NORTH OF FW, 35W SOUTH OF FW, 377 (Denton Highway), I-20, I-30, Loop 820, Southwest Parkway/121T/Chisholm Trail, TX 114, TX 121, TX 183, Current Affairs, Driving, Mobile phones, cell phones, texting, talking and driving, Toll Roads, Traffic, Travel, Your morning commute | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
The reconstruction of Interstate 35W from Interstate 30 near downtown Fort Worth to north of U.S. 81/287 in the far north part of the city will begin this year, after the Texas Transportation Commission last week approved its portion of the project.
- @gdickson and @fwstevans
HURST - Motorists will once again find it easier to move north and south through Hurst.
The new Hurstview Drive bridge over Texas 121/183 will open at 10 a.m. Saturday, officials with the North Tarrant Express project said.
The bridge had been closed since April, as part of the $2.5 billion freeway makeover known as North Tarrant Express.
Officials also announced Friday that the North Tarrant Express project, which began in January 2011, had reached its halfway point. The developer has promised to complete its work by the end of June 2015, according to its contract with the Texas Department of Transportation. With the announcement that the work had reached its halfway point, it would appear that construction is roughly six months ahead of schedule - but officials with the project declined to discuss specifics, other than to say they were on schedule to meet their deadline.
North Tarrant Express is a $2.5 billion makeover of Northeast Loop 820 and Texas 121/183 in Northeast Tarrant County. The developer is NTE Mobility Partners, which is a team of companies led by the U.S. subsidiary of Spain-based Cintra.
NTE Mobility Partners spokesman Robert Hinkle announced the opening of the Hurstview Bridge and the project's 50 percent completion Friday morning during a Northeast Tarrant Transportation Summit held by Tarrant County Commissioner Gary Fickes.
Speaking to an audience of several hundred people in Hurst, Hinkle quipped that Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley had been asking him about twice a week for many months when the Hurstview Bridge would re-open.
"Judge Whitley lives on the north side of the bridge, and his church is on the south side," Hinkle said. "He's been telling me it's my fault people are not getting to God. I'm waking up in the middle of the night thinking about that."
While the opening of the Hurstview Bridge likely will be cheered by motorists trying to get from one side of Hurst to another, it may not make much of a difference for traffic passing through the city.
The eastbound frontage road between Precinct Line Road and Cavender Drive will be closed for up to three months - meaning drivers using the Hurstview Bridge won't have a direct connection to Texas 121/183.
"You can go north and south across the bridge, but you won't be able to turn east onto the frontage road," said Lara Kohl, spokeswoman for Bluebonnet Constructors, the firm overseeing construction. "This is a local access bridge only, not connected to the main lanes of the expressway, and it never was. We anticipate three months to reconstruct the frontage roads in that area."
DFW AIRPORT - More than a fourth of Texas' 100 top transportation challenges are in the Dallas Fort Worth area, a report released Thursday concluded.
The worst roads include two sections of Interstate 35W north of downtown Fort Worth - although both areas are scheduled for improvements over the next couple of years.
Still, the report on deficient roads was released Thursday by local and national advocates, who called on the Texas Legislature to increase Texas highway funding to avoid stumping the state's economic growth.
"The consequence of not making these improvements is severe," said Carolyn Bonifas Kelly, associate director of research for TRIP, Washington-based organization supported by insurance and construction companies and other businesses that favor increased highway funding.
Gathering at Dallas Fort Worth Airport's headquarters, officials from TRIP, the Texas Good Roads and Transportation Association and other groups called for lawmakers to embrace new funding sources for Texas highways.
Texas, which relies mostly on motor fuels taxes to pay for roads, is losing ground in trying to keep up with its mobility needs, said Lawrence Olsen, executive vice president of Texas Good Roads. In recent years, lawmakers have allowed the Texas Department of Transportation to issue bond-backed debt to temporarily make up for a lack of road funding. But, Olsen said, the new reality of now making regular installment payments on that debt has made the long-term funding picture more bleak.
"Now when TxDot does its budget it takes $2 billion off the top for debt," Olsen said. "That's money that's not going to these projects."
Among the local projects listed on the report's top 100 Texas transportation challenges:
During the current legislative session, lawmakers are being asked to get serious about providing better long-term funding sources for transportation. Rider Scott, executive director of the Dallas Regional Mobility Coalition, said a growing number of state residents is calling for elected leaders to find the funds to fix the state's crumbling roads.
Among the suggestions is that the state stop diverting transportation funds to non-transportation projects, which could generate about $1.2 billion per year. Another idea would be to dedicate sales taxes paid on automobile purchases to the state's Fund 6 highway fund, rather than the general fund, which would raise another $3 billion.
Of course, both of those ideas would create funding gaps in other state programs.
Similar reports were released nearly simultaneously in other Texas metro areas.
The developer of the LBJ Express and North Tarrant Express projects held a name contest to come up with a moniker for the toll lanes that will be built on freeways.
The new toll lanes that motorists will be able to use on several major highways that are under construction in the Dallas Fort Worth area will have a new name.
They'll be called "TEXpress lanes."
That name was picked as the best suggestion during a naming contest held by the private consortium of companies rebuilding several major roads in the region - including the North Tarrant Express project in Northeast Tarrant County, and LBJ Express in north Dallas.
"The whole term 'managed lanes' didn't make sense to them," said Robert Hinkle, spokesman for NTE Mobility Partners, which is rebuilding the I-35W/Loop 820/Texas 121/183 corridor in Northeast Tarrant County.
More than 3,200 suggestions were submitted in the contest, he said.
The identify of the person or persons who suggested the TEXpress Lanes wasn't disclosed. However, officials with the development consortium said some people who took part in the contest were randomly selected to receive gas cards valued at $2,500, $1,000, $500 and $100.
The re-branding of the toll lanes comes as North Texas officials work through the complicated process of integrating the toll lanes - which will be an option for drivers who will be able to choose betweeen toll and toll-free lanes on the system - and the two-decade old high-occupancy vehicle lane system that operates mostly in Dallas.
The HOV lanes are available to vehicles with two or more occupants, although the Regional Transportation Council is considering increasing that requirement to three or more occupants beginning June 1, 2016. Some Dallas officials are dead-set against that proposal, saying they'll get too much push-back from voters who are accustomed to using the lanes for free.
As for the TEXpress Lanes, they'll likely make their debut in late 2013 on the first new section of LBJ Freeway in Dallas, said Andy Rittler, LBJ Express project spokesman. Then, over the next two and a half years the TEXpress Lanes will open on the rest of LBJ, as well as Texas 114, Texas 121/183 and Northeast Loop 820 in Tarrant County.
BEDFORD – A major road closure that is scheduled to begin at noon Friday in Bedford could leave motorists passing through Northeast Tarrant County stuck in delays. Both directions of Brown Trail will be closed at the Texas 121/183 overpass from noon Friday through 10 a.m. Sunday, said an official with Bluebonnet Contractors, the firm overseeing the multi-billion-dollar North Tarrant Express project in the corridor.
The contractor has communicated with nearby L.D. Bell High School about how the closure will affect students, parents and teachers leaving the school Friday afternoon, spokeswoman Lara Kohl said. “We’ll be working closely with L.D. Bell to make sure their buses and students can get through,” Kohl said. “We’re going to let pedestrians cross until 7 p.m.” Vehicles also will be allowed to use the frontage road until about 7 p.m., but after that will be detoured to nearby Harwood Road or Bedford-Euless Road.
Workers are demolishing the old Brown Trail bridge and moving traffic to the new bridge. Traffic on the Texas 121/183 main lanes will be shifted to area frontage roads from 9 p.m. Friday to 10 a.m. Saturday, and 9 p.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday, to make room for demolition. During those overnight hours, the frontage roads will be used for freeway traffic and will not be available for frontage access, Kohl said.
The $2.5 billion, 13-5-mile project extends from Interstate 35W in north Fort Worth Industrial Boulevard in Euless.
Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796 Twitter: @gdickson