REPRIORITIZING STATE PLANS
In 1996, a broker promised to develop 60 acres if Mesquite built an exit ramp from the state highway to the parcel.
He wouldn't take no for an answer. Mesquite's Economic Development Manager Tom Palmer found out the state's plan to add capacity on 37 miles of highway — the Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway — that loops around Dallas-Fort Worth included just such a ramp. He wanted Texas DOT (TxDOT) to make a two-mile stretch that included the ramp first rather than third phase of reconstruction.
To sweeten the proposal, he offered to partially fund the $50 million project and manage the design. This may be the first time a local government offered to help fund a state project, and it's a tactic other city and county infrastructure managers are mimicking. He credits TxDOT Project Manager Matt McGregor for coming up with another trendsetting suggestion, this one designed to eliminate delays once construction began: include finalized franchise utility relocation designs in bid documents.
The strategies worked.
April 7, 2009
Dear Mayor Monaco,
I wasn't sure who to send this letter to, so I thought you could get it to the right people in the right departments. Thank you
To all those involved in the Tripp Road Project:
Sorry it has taken me so long to tell you what a wonderful job you all have done on Tripp Road. We have waited for the widening of Tripp Road for so long, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would live on such a beautiful new street!
I always thought it would just be a normal widening, but look how much thought and planning went into this project!!! Thank you for making the beautiful bridge and the whole everything at Tripp & Beltline!!! It is so beautiful and we are so proud!! Thank you for the lights along the way that stay with the theme all along the street!!
Thank you for the stonework that is just beautiful everywhere!!
Thanks for trimming the trees along the road, the new sidewalks, and the new grass.
Thanks for the lady who came to talk to us at the beginning who was so nice, and we were the first to get the pictures of what it was going to look like!
Thanks to the workers who were so nice and tried so hard to stay out of our way even when it was impossible. They always smiled or waved back and took care of any inconveniences they could.
I know a lot of people worked on this project from start to finish and I want so much to let them all know how proud we are of our new street! Thank you so much!
Sincerely, Merry Johnsey
Reprinted with permission from the City of Mesquite, Texas
The Mesquite Quality of Life Corp., which is funded by a half-cent sales tax, met the city's $9 million financial commitment; and was reimbursed with monies from a tax increment financing zone created for the area to be developed.
Public works then directed the Plano office of design-engineering firm HNTB to make good on the second endeavor, which in turn subcontracted Cobb, Fendley & Associates Inc. in Dallas as utility liaison. Over the next year the firm hammered out the details, including a promise to require the general contractor (ultimately McCarthy Building Companies Inc.) to subcontract relocations to a company approved by each utility. This assured gas, electric, and communications managers their assets would be handled by contractors with which they had a working relationship.
Though the tactic added about a year to the design phase, Tumulty estimates it cut 12 to 24 months from the overall project schedule.
The ramp that prompted all these machinations opened in 2006, providing 1 million square feet of retail and restaurant establishments. But the job wasn't finished yet. Tumulty and his team continued coordinating local improvements with the state's plan to add two freeway lanes.
To accommodate the increase from eight to 10 lanes, two bridges were widened and given U-turn lanes to improve clearances. An access ramp was built and two ramps rebuilt. A section of frontage road expands access to the retail and restaurant centers. A boulevard was widened to improve capacity and alignment.
Like Tripp Road and bridge, the number of vehicles — 170,000 — passing through the area hasn't changed. But traffic's circulating much more efficiently. In total, the project involved:83,000 square yards of 11-inch and 83,000 square yards of l5-inch concrete pavement92,000 square feet of bridge decks76,900 square feet of retaining walls1,800 linear feet of water line1,900 linear feet of sanitary sewer line500 trees, 400 shrubs, ground cover, and block soddingAn irrigation system for the new landscaping1,600 linear feet of box culverts and 13,000 linear feet of reinforced concrete pipe for drainage13 high-mast lighting assemblies, 42 landscape spotlights, and 81 floodlightsTwo pairs of ornamental traffic signals.
Public works also got a traffic control center of its own and intelligent elements, such as CCTV and associated camera assembly, that it shares with the state DOT's regional office in Mesquite.
Palmer expects Mesquite's investment to pay off within 10 years through taxes on new property and higher values of existing properties. But his analysis doesn't include sales taxes, so the city could break even sooner.