Drivers in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area soon will have more options to avoid traffic congestion and enjoy a smoother ride thanks to an $850 million loan from the U.S. Department of Transportation to reconstruct the existing road and add new toll lanes to Interstate 635, more commonly known as the LBJ Freeway.
“The project will improve livability for area residents,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “It will reduce congestion, which will allow people to spend more time doing what they enjoy, and it will improve air quality and enhance safety.”
The amount approved Tuesday, June 22, represents the second-largest loan in the history of the Department’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act Program, which encourages new ways of funding projects.
DOT also authorized $615 million in tax-exempt private activity bonds issued for the project. These bonds, sold to private investors backed by the tolls, allow greater opportunity for investment in transportation infrastructure.
“This loan is a great example of how critical federal credit can be in moving key transportation projects forward and making them a reality, which helps address the needs of the American people,” says Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez.
In 1969, I-635 was built to accommodate 180,000 vehicles per day. Today, average daily traffic counts exceed 270,000 vehicles in the project area. Future corridor traffic demand is estimated to exceed 450,000 vehicles by the year 2020. The $2.8 billion project will include reconstructing general purpose lanes and existing frontage roads, building new tolled lanes and frontage roads for about 13 miles along the I-635 and I-35E corridors in Dallas County, and building elevated direct connector ramps between I-635 and I-35E and other facilities to the extent necessary to improve connectivity, mobility and safety.
The Texas Department of Transportation executed a 52-year concession agreement with the LBJ Infrastructure Group in September 2009 to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the facility. Toll rates will vary by type of vehicle, congestion levels, time of day, and vehicle occupancy. Under the concession agreement, LBJIG will be required to maintain a 50 mph minimum operating speed in the managed lanes, ensuring a faster, more predictable trip time. The managed lanes will be free to transit vehicles, while carpools and vanpools will receive a 50 percent discount during peak periods.
“I commend TxDOT for using a combination of private and public resources to develop this project,” Mendez says.