No Speed Bumps on Texas' First Design-Build
Private-Public Partnership Paving
Way for Fast Delivery
By Eileen Schwartz
While frustrated Austin motorists battle the growing traffic
on Interstate 35, the future of transportation in Texas is
quietly taking shape a few miles away on the northeast side
of the Capital City. That's where multiple, multi-million
dollar construction jobs are under waymost of them out
of sight of the traveling public.
The massive Trans Texas Corridor, a long-range plan to improve
infrastructure statewide that will ultimately incorporate
a network of 4,000 mi. of roads, rail and utilities, is decades
away from being visible. But the use of alternative funding
and toll roads in key metropolitan and regional areas throughout
the statecritical to success of the Trans Texas Corridoris
The Central Texas Turnpike System is a multipurpose, mixed-delivery
set of toll roads and interchanges that includes State Highway
45N, Loop I and the new State Highway 130. Managed by Lone
Star Infrastructure, the SH 130 project is Texas' first and
only design-build highway and the largest single highway project
in the state's history. It is the first to be developed under
a new TxDOT design-build contract known as a Comprehensive
With a contract of roughly $1.5 billion, the SH 130 element
of the CTTS project is one of the top three active highway
contracts in the country to include design, yet it is little
more than a blip on the local radar screen.
"One unique thing about this project is that it is taking
place on green field and not in urban areas," said Lone
Star Infrastructure project director Doug Fuller.
Exhibiting foresight and creativity in the state's approach,
project delivery on the CTTS includes traditional and design-build
methods. After the CDA was authorized by the Texas Legislature
in 2001, SH 130 ground broke in October 2003 on the 49 mi.
four-lane divided concrete toll road that runs parallel to
and east of IH-35, extending from north of Georgetown to U.S.
183 in southeast Travis County. Construction is divided into
four segments, and progress is currently being made on the
first two phases-about 18 miles of highwayin the Austin
suburbs of Georgetown, Pfluggerville, Round Rock, Manor and
SH 130 is on a five-year timetable, to be completed no later
than December 2007. The project will include 30 million cu.
yd. of dirt, 1.7 million tons of asphalt paving and 2.7 million
tons of concrete. In addition, 119 bridges are slated, consisting
of 350,000 sq. ft. of steel and 5 million sq. ft. of concrete.
Roughly 25 percent of the bridges are currently under construction.
Five planned interchanges eventually will expand to a six-lane
facility with a median, anticipating multi-modal facilities
such as light rail. In addition to the four main toll plazas,
there will also be 29 exit/entrance ramp toll plazas. Tolls
are expected to be approximately 12 cents per mile.
Lone Star Infrastructure, an organization created specifically
for the project, is spearheaded by three main venture partners:
Fluor Corp of Aliso Viejo, Calif., Balfour Beatty Construction
of Atlanta, and T.J. Lambrecht, Euless. Also involved are
more than 20 subcontractors and consultants covering every
aspect of the project including design, right-of-way, environmental,
utilities relocation and quality assurance. During the life
of the project LSI will employ more than 1,100 workers including
design engineers, environmental specialists, surveyors, construction
crews and administrative support.
Fuller said that working with TxDOT has been "fantastic,"
and credits both partners for the project's progress. He added
that LSI and TxDOT have found creative ways to bring issues
to the table including formal partnering sessions with an
"We're partnering at multiple levels with TxDOT,"
Fuller said. "We've had several formal partnering sessions
with an independent facilitator where we brought everybody
in and established goals and so forth. It's been extremely
useful because it's a process that establishes a formal procedure
up to the highest level of the organization.
"The other thing is that jointly we have a goal to hone
the design-build process. We can give [TxDOT] the contractor's
perspective on those issues. I think that's gone well. I think
there's still work to be done, and I think they would agree.
We will continue to hone that."
It is that kind of synergy that separates not only design-build
as a concept from traditional bidding processes but also demonstrates
the potential success of future private-public partnerships
with TxDOT. LSI is working closely with TxDOT to ensure that
work is moving forward at an impressively accelerated rate,
one the state predicts will allow completion some 25 years
ahead of a traditional bid process.
"The bottom line for the citizens of Texas is that it
allows roads to be built faster and at less cost," said
Justin Keener, public information officer for LSI.
The design-build nature of the project sets it apart from
the traditional design-bid-build process in other ways. One
aspect is that right-of-way acquisition and engineering are
handled by LSI rather than the state. Another is that the
independent quality control on both design and construction
teams are part of the organization, providing oversight for
the state while working closely with the rest of the partners.
"This is the first time it's been handled this way in
the state," Fuller said. "We're working out the
standard operating procedures of how a firm inspects the work
to make sure it's in compliance with TxDOT standards and how
a firm reports back to TxDOT."
One important decision LSI made at the outset while bidding
on the project and a major factor in securing it was the selection
of concrete rather than asphalt as the primary material. The
principal factors in this decision revolved less around turnaround
time and more around sustainability and lower maintenance
costs. Some asphalt will be used on access and frontage roads
where appropriate, but using concrete helped to lower cost
estimates on the life of the project.
Perhaps the greatest benefit to both LSI and the state in
terms of efficiency is that design and construction can occur
at the same time, enabling all teams involved to respond to
challenges that are part of the day-to-day procedure. In a
traditional design-bid-build scenario, all design work must
be completed before it can be bid, negating any opportunity
to modify plans when confronted by obstacles or practical
"You have to design it before you can bid it before
you can build it," Fuller said. "For us, that overlaps.
I don't need to know what the pavement looks like. I'd rather
be out there and do mass grading and put the drainage in.
So while they're finishingdesigning the pavement, the
illumination, all that stuffwe can be out there moving
Fuller added that with traditional design-bid-build, it's
the obligation of the designer to propose something that's
open to competition. But on this type of procurement, contactors
team up with the designers before submitting the bid, and
part of the competition depends on how well the design can
be optimized. "So the design becomes part of the competition."
he said. "I've worked both ways, and I prefer this type
because we can affect that design based upon how we want to
construct the project."
The experience might even affect traditional projects in
the future. "Designers understand better how we think
about a project," Fuller added. "So they may have
been designing something one way for a long time, but nobody
ever asked, 'Why can't you do it this way?'