Relief is on the way for motorists who deal with traffic headaches on Interstate 35E between Dallas and Denton.
A developer team has been picked to rebuild the corridor, with additional free lanes, toll lanes and better frontage roads.
AGL Constructors was selected earlier this month by the Texas Transportation Commission. The developer includes Archer Western Contractors LLC (Atlanta), Granite Construction Co. (Watsonville, Calif.) and The LANE Construction Co. (Cheshire, Conn.)
About $1 billion in public funds is available for the project, including roughly $535 million that Denton County is chipping in from its share of the region's toll revenue.
The construction work between LBJ Freeway in the Dallas/Carrollton area and the I-35E/35W split in Denton is expected to begin during the next year and be completed by late 2016.
The corridor is considered one of the 100 Most Congested Roadways in the state - with about 200,000 vehicles per day - according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
The total cost of rebuilding the corridor will be in the $4.8 billion range, and that work will be done as funds become available.
“As we continue to face challenges with transportation funding, public/private partnerships such as this one will remain essential components for addressing our state’s mobility needs and spurring our economic prosperity,” Texas Transportation Commissioner Bill Meadows of Fort Worth said in a statement. “We are excited to see momentum on I-35E and hope to provide Texas drivers with some much-needed traffic congestion relief sooner than later.”
Transportation department executive director Phil Wilson added: “These projects represent significant milestones in helping build out our infrastructure and providing more options to move people and goods around our great state.”
The A-train commuter line connecting Denton to the Dallas-area transit system also runs along the I-35E corridor.
The Texas Department of Transportation is ramping up its preparations for icy weather, even as the Dallas-Fort Worth area prepares for another weekend of gorgeous days with highs in the 80s.
About 30 snow plows are available in the North Texas region, and more can be called in if a storm is severe enough, agency spokesman Val Lopez said.
"If the storm is bad enough, we are able to flex our manpower where it is needed the most," Lopez said.
During the week of the 2010 Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, transportation department crews from across the state stayed in the Metroplex for several days, working in shifts to try to keep the roads clear for commuters and hundreds of thousands of tourists.
The agency has a stockpile of liquid magnesium chloride, which can be sprayed on roads as an ice preventative, or used in higher concentration to break up ice that has already formed. The agency uses a truck equipped with hoses and pipes on the front end to spray herbicide in warmer months, and a different set of pipes and nozzles on the rear end to spray magnesium chloride during an ice event.
"It comes out at the same rate, so the difference between pre-treating the roads to prevent ice and de-icing - or removing the ice that's already there - is a matter of how fast you drive," said Vernon Well, a maintenance technician. "For de-icing you drive about 10 miles per hour. For pre-treating you drive about 40 to 45 mph."
The agency also had several large piles of sand, and a sand-salt mixture known as chat, to spread on roads.
2. A herbicide truck is also equipped with pipes and nozzles to spread liquid magnesium chloride, to remove or prevent the formation of ice on roads.
FORT WORTH - It's not the kind of report card a good student would want to show mom and dad.
The quality of Texas roads and highways scored a woeful grade of 'D' on a report card issued Thursday by the Texas section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The group periodically puts out a report card, assigning letter grades to the state's infrastructure, including energy, waterways and waste.
Overall, Texas averaged a C on 12 categories of infrastructure, including roads.
Not good. In fact, if a Texas high school kid brought home those grades, he or she might not be allowed to suit up for football or volleyball this weekend.
But, on the bright side, Texas is faring better than the national average - a 'D.'
The report card is the American Society of Civil Engineers' way of delivering their technical knowledge about infrastructure to a mass audience. It's an update of a Texas report card published in 2008.
"This is complex data," Randall Over, ASCE president-elect, said Thursday during a news conference at the Worthington Renaissance Fort Worth hotel, where the Texas section was holding a four-day conference. "A lot of people don't know the difference between a 'high-hazard dam' and a 'significant hazard dam.' They just hear the word hazard and they know it's bad. Thus, this report card was born. Everyone know a report card grade."
The roads fared so poorly because of a lack of maintenance planning and long-term funding. Texas now ranks 43rd among the states in road spending per capita, compared to 17th in 2008, according to background material provided with the report card.
The Texas Department of Public Safety is opening "mega centers" in Fort Worth and other major cities in hopes of reducing long lines for driver licenses. Will it work?
Freight normally hauled by trucks could one day soon be shipped on an electric-powered, overhead guideway across Texas. It may seem like an idea more suitable for Tomorrowland – and artist renderings of the project do resemble Disney’s famed monorail system – but Texas officials are encouraging a privately-funded business to get the project up and running, perhaps within six years.
"We think it’s happening at just the right time in our country,” said Stephen Roop, an assistant director at Texas A&M University’s Texas Transportation Institute, and developer of the so-called Freight Shuttle concept. “It can operate in the air space of a highway median.”
Roop and his colleagues have formed Freight Shuttle International, a company that is cobbling together the estimated $2.5 billion needed to build the first leg of this futuristic transportation system. The guideways would be built within the existing right-of-way of Interstate 35, initially stretching about 250 miles from San Antonio to Waxahachie – but eventually extending north through Dallas-Fort Worth, and south to the Mexican border. Ultimately, Freight Shuttle guideways could be built on more than 2,000 miles of highway right-of-way across the state, he said.
The system would haul cargo of various sizes, packed in both intermodal containers and freight trailers. Terminals would be built at each end of the route, so that trucks could load and off-load their goods onto the Freight Shuttle guideways. The shipments would be placed on unmanned transporters powered by linear induction motors using electricity and a magnetic field. They would glide on steel wheels across the guideways at about 60 mph, Roop told members of the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition during a meeting Wednesday in Fort Worth.
Shippers would be able to get their goods across the state for pennies on the dollar compared to what it costs to haul freight in tractor-trailers, said Ken Allen, a retired logistics executive for grocery giant H-E-B Stores and chief executive officer of Freight Shuttle International’s operations unit. “We estimate it would be 25 percent cheaper than a very efficient trucking operation,” Allen said. For consumers, Allen added, “It probably amounts to a savings of 4 to 5 cents for a gallon of milk, and H-E-B sells probably three million gallons a week.”
The Texas Department of Transportation last year quietly put out a request for qualifications for the project. Six firms initially responded with a proposal for moving freight across the state without clogging up freeway lanes, but Freight Shuttle International emerged from the competition as the lone qualified candidate. The transportation department is close to approving a reservation of right-of-way agreement that would give Freight Shuttle International first dibs on the project. That document would give the company three years to arrange its financing and conduct an environmental study, Roop said. Another three years would be needed for construction, he said. Most of the work could be done in highway median space with minimal traffic disruptions.
The prospect of reducing truck traffic on the I-35 corridor excited several members of the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition. Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said he could envision moving people on trains in the highway right-of-way, too, instead of relying on railroad tracks owned and controlled by freight companies. “That right-of-way above the interstate is something that is beginning to be more attractive, especially given our negotiations with Union Pacific,” Whitley said. “If that would be possible, especially inside urban areas, that would be very intriguing along certain routes like LBJ, I-30 and I-20.”
Motorists are still experiencing delays because of construction of the 28-mile Chisholm Trail Parkway toll road from Fort Worth to Cleburne, but the North Texas Tollway Authority gets a bit of credit for responding to complaints.
How can people and goods move so seamlessly in some places, such as Leipzig, Germany, but not others?
LEIPZIG, Germany - Chile and China have been accepted as members of the International Transport Forum, joining 52 other countries that have pledged to work together to reduce gridlock, pollution and other traffic-related problems.
Chile officials celebrated their entrance Thursday, during the second day of the International Transport Forum's annual summit in Leipzig, Germany. China actually joined in November, but its delegation was officially welcomed during the event, which was attended by hundreds of international dignitaries, transportation experts and industry entrepreneurs.
The group also approved a position paper calling for governments to put aside their cross-border differences and push for policies that make it a more seamless endeavor for people and goods to move across jurisdictions.
"Connectivity is a 21st century megatrend," said Michael Kloth, acting secretary general of the forum. "Enabling transport to become more seamless between modes and systems, across borders, regulatory frameworks and ownership structures will stimulate creativity, set free resources (and) help economic growth."
Chile is the first South American nation to join the policy think tank. In North America, the United States, Mexico and Canada are already members.
Photos: East Japan Railway president Satoshi Seino addresses the group; An attendee checks out Next Bikes that can be used for rental in cities; Attendees gather at a display outside the Leipzig, Germany conference center; Ministers from 54 countries speak about the importance of seamlessness.