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Diverse Projects Fill Out Regions Top Starts of 2013

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The $1.4-billion IH-35 Express Managed Lanes Project, a 30-mile expansion of IH-35E between U.S. 380 in Denton and I-635 in Dallas, is ranked No. 2 on this year's list. Work includes reconstruction, rehabilitation or expansion of 75 bridges, addition of a reversible 18-mile-long managed lane system and the addition of 40 miles (includes north and southbound lanes) of new general-purpose lanes.

Ranked No. 3 and No. 6, respectively, were TxDOT's $1.04-billion SH 99 Grand Parkway Expansion, a 180-mile circumferential highway traversing seven counties in the Houston area, and the $798-million Horseshoe Project, which stretches five miles and replaces bridges that cross Trinity River on I-30 and I-35E as well as the connecting roadways where they converge near the Dallas Central Business District.

In Louisiana, highway work has taken a downturn, but the booming industrial sector continues to have a positive impact. "We do see some spin-off from the industrial sector from the industrial expansions with commercial building and even the plants are looking at funding privately some infrastructure improvement because the state cannot," says Ken Naquin, CEO, Louisiana AGC. "So we're excited about that. In the public sector, you're going to see some residual and added work just because of the increase in industrial work."

Three industrial projects in Louisiana show up on the Top Starts list. Benteler Automotive Corp.'s $975-million Hot Rolling Steel Tubular Mill in Shreveport is being built in two phases. The finished facility will have more than 1.35 million sq ft and produce up to 320,000 tons of steel tubes annually.

Dyno Nobel's $850-million Ammonia Production Facility in Waggaman will have an annual ammonia capacity of 800,000 metric tons once completed in 2016. Meanwhile, Dow Chemical has two projects in Plaquemine, the $500-million Next Generation Synthetic Rubber Plant and the $500-million High Performance Polyethylene Plant, both finishing in late 2016.

Water and Energy

Health care, retail and flood-control projects were among the region's largest this year as well. Construction of the $615-million Permanent Canal Closures and Pumps project in New Orleans to protect the city from future flooding will continue until 2017. Hospital work has been steady across the region and continues with the $648.9-million Fort Bliss Replacement Hospital in El Paso, Texas, and the $175.5-million Baylor Medical Center at Waxahachie, Texas. More health care-related projects are forthcoming too, such as the $358-million Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. Construction begins this summer.

A retail entry on the list, Nebraska Furniture Mart's $156.8-million megastore in The Colony, Texas, sits on a 100-acre site and includes 560,000 sq ft of retail space, plus 1.3 million sq ft of warehouse space. This is just the start of development. More than 400 acres are being developed at the same location as workers gear up to bring 3.9 million sq ft of mixed-use space to the site.

A Top Starts ranking covering Texas and Louisiana would not be complete without at least a few energy projects. For starters, the $400-million Houston Lateral pipeline and terminal—a portion of TransCanada's Keystone Gulf Coast Expansion—is now under way. Quanta Services Inc. is installing 48 miles of 36-in.-dia steel pipe to connect TransCanada's Gulf Coast Pipeline to refineries in Houston.

Also, ONEOK Hydrocarbon's $350-million LP NGL Fractionation Project in Mont Belvieu, Texas, is under way, as is Magellan Midstream Partners' $600-million BridgeTex Pipeline in Colorado City, Texas. On the renewables side, Enbridge's Keechi Creek Wind Farm, a $200-million project, is rising in Jacksboro, Texas.

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