Teamwork in Ferrovial often allows us to make a success of projects which at first seemed almost impossible. Such is the case of the North Tarrant Express (NTE) and LBJ-635 highways, which Cintra is developing in the congested metropolitan area of Dallas (Texas, US).
These projects, which will require investment of some 4.7 billion dollars (nearly 3.85 billion euros), add up to a road length of 48 km and have the peculiarity of being Cintras first managed lanes project. What are managed lanes? They are concessions which include the maintenance and improvement of toll-free existing lanes on both highways, and the construction of extra lanes boasting barrier-free electronic tolling with variable toll rates depending on the congestion levels of the highways. The concession periods are for 52 years.
The more advanced of the two projects is the NTE. Its financial close came in last December and on 1 May the concession company took over operation and maintenance on the transferred highway. Construction of the extra toll lanes is due to start before the end of 2010, and to go on for five years. As this edition went to press, the LBJ had just completed its financing phase, with a view to starting construction work in 2011.
Both concessions are the result of close cooperation between Cintra, Ferrovial Agroman and Webber, the construction companys US subsidiary.
Alfonso Orol, who was responsible for the LBJ-635 tender, remembers the long and demand-ing tender process. The Texas Department of Transportation launched it in 2005 and several years of negotiations and as many as 14 versions of the specifications were required before bids were submitted.
The tenders in Texas were managed from Cintras and Ferrovial Agromans offices in Austin. The former has a staff of 20, headed up by Carlos Ugarte (Bidding Team) and Ricardo Sánchez (Technical Office), which is supported by the companys project finance office in New York. For Ferrovial Agroman, what was instrumental in facilitating the projects viability were the identification and development of solutions by the technical office in Austin led by Fidel Sáenz de Ormijana.
What was the key to success in the tenders? Our ability to innovate and to offer the client solu-tions to make the project viable, and our more competitive bid, our tenacity in a long and costly tender process, and cooperation and teamwork between Cintra and Ferrovial, says Alfonso Orol.
Winning the contracts was the first step on a long and winding road. Belén Marcos, CEO of the consortium developing the NTE (NTE Mobility Partners), says that currently the main challenge faced by the consortium is acquiring the land needed to build the extra lanes. In Texas private property is highly protected, so the process is complex and very bureaucratic, she says.
Belén Marcos and Antonio Álvarez-Cedrón, CEO of LBJ Infrastructure Group, agree as to an-other of the great challenges faced by the concession companies: rolling out the toll system. It is an innovative system: toll lanes whose pricing is managed in real time according to traffic occupancy and speed, says Álvarez-Cedrón. The concept is highly innovative and the tolling and pricing system is something that Cintra has never done before. Its going to be quite a chal-lenge, adds Belén Marcos.
On the construction side, Mario Móstoles, Ferrovial Agroman Manager on the LBJ road, notes that one of the great challenges for his team is managing 380,000 vehicles a day and at the same time building a highway with great technical complexity. Ferrovial Agromans José Car-los Esteban, responsible for the construction of the NTE, also highlights traffic management as one of the projects key aspects and adds that there are a large number of amenities affected along the corridor, so coordination with all the municipalities will be vital.
Again, cooperation between the concession company and the construction firm is essential to the projects success. In these projects the public is considerably affected and so the flow of communication with the concession company will be very important if we are to give a solid and coordinated image, says Mario Móstoles.
According to José Carlos Esteban, Ferrovial Agroman contributes great experience in the man-agement of such contracts, in which the great majority of risks in the construction phase are borne by the contractor at a closed fixed price. This model for distributing risks between Fer-rovial Agroman and Cintra has been hugely successful and has allowed Cintra to become a world leader in its sector, adds José Carlos Esteban.
Managed lanes will be the solution for many highly congested urban areas in the U.S. and sev-eral states such as Florida, California and Texas have projects at the development or implemen-tation stage. For Cintra, having two contracts of this kind will be an advantage in competing for further projects.
We are dealing with an exciting project that will doubtless make us leaders in the world infra-structure management market, notes Antonio Álvarez-Cedrón, LBJ CEO.
Projects with great impact on Texan society
To get an idea of the magnitude of the two concessions, we should note that the NTE and LBJ currently have five lanes in each direction plus a two-lane service road. They have traffic of more than 300,000 vehicles a day.
This is a similar traffic level to that of the Madrid M-30 or-bital highway, in its busiest sections. This projects impact in Texas is going to be extraordinary. Robert Hinkle, Communications Director for NTE, highlighted that the projects success will depend largely on what commit-ments the company makes with local people, associations, businesses, the media, etc. And, natu-rally, the internet has a key role. The NTE has launched a website for informing the public about the project (http://northtarrantexpress.com/NTEpartners.asp), and has a channel in Twitter and is getting a page ready on Facebook.
We have to give advance notice of all major developments at the construction phase, and dem-onstrate that we are able to carry out what we plan to do, which will doubtless enhance the groups credibility and trustworthiness with the local authorities and help us in the future with similar projects, says Mario Móstoles, Ferrovial Agroman Manager in LBJ.
Dallas fire-fighters and policemen get involved in the concession
The consortia that are to manage the NTE and LBJ have been invested in by the Dallas police and fire-fighters pension fund. This is the first time that a public US pension fund has invested in an infrastructure project. Its involvement has enhanced the consortiums image in Texan so-ciety. Moreover the projects also include investment from the infrastructure fund Meridiam.
The NTE receives the 2009 Global Transport Deal of the Year award
The project led by Cintra for the NTE was selected by the prestigious Infrastructure Journal as 2009 Global Transport Deal of the Year. The highway was competing with projects such as the M25 enlargement in London or the I-595 highway in Florida.