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DALLAS-In what was hailed as the “next step” by the Texas Department of Transportation, LBJ Development Partners has been conditionally awarded a $4 billion to rebuild the Interstate 635 corridor, which is the Dallas area’s major east-west route. The developer, consisting of a conglomeration of partners from across Texas, will be charged with financing, designing, rebuilding, and then operating the 13-mile stretch linking U.S. Highway 75 with Farmers Branch, a suburb of Dallas.

The award to build and maintain LBJ-635 as it’s dubbed, doesn’t mean “shovel ready,” says a spokesman with TexDOT. “What it means is that’s a key milestone,” the spokesman tells GlobeSt.com. “There’s a two-month window to finalize the contract, and after that, upwards of 18 months during which they need to finish the project components, such as communication and traffic control plans, as well as the design.” Also squeezed in there are public hearings about the project. With all that to consider, the spokesman says construction on this stretch of road could begin anytime between mid 2010 to early 2011, with build-out anticipated to be four to five years.

Another key behind the partnership between private developers and TxDOT is minimal interference. In other words, the real estate lining the roadway, consisting of office buildings, restaurants and hotels, shouldn’t endure too many inconveniences as roads are widened to include managed toll lanes and frontage.

The spokesman explains that LBJ Development Partners, in fact, has a monetary incentive not to cause too much disruption to traffic patterns. The developer receives a financial bonus if main lanes aren’t touched at specific times, such as rush hour. But if those lanes undergo construction to the point of disruption, the developer is penalized.

“When you’re starting to lose millions because from that, you start to become clever on how to get this all done without a whole lot of pain,” the spokesman says. For example, he comments, the developers have already hired engineers from Farmers Branch and Dallas, who will work to coordinate traffic light timings with the construction so the light cycles don’t delay people getting on and off the roads.

Furthermore, the developer plans to meet regularly with business owners located on the stretch of road, to give those owners an opportunity to air concerns.

The spokesman goes on to explain that penalty-reward system worked well with a previous Interstate 635 construction project involving the redesign and construction of the connection between the interstate and U.S. Highway 75. This development came to be known as the “High Five” because of its five layers of roadways stacked on top of one another.

“Traffic impacts were minimized,” the spokesman says. “This isn’t to say they weren’t there, but they weren’t nearly as bad as they could have been.”

This is also not to say there won’t be some pain affiliated with the LBJ-635 project. It’s impossible to tear apart an eight-lane highway and add managed toll lanes and frontage without some disruption to some drivers. The spokesman says, however, that the goal is to minimize the traffic problems.

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