Kapsch gets big toll system integration job in Dallas area - LBJExpress, N Tarrant Express

August 7, 2012
By Peter Samuel

2012-08-06: Kapsch has $79m of front-end toll system integration work on two major toll concession projects in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area - the North Tarrant Express (NTE Mobility Partners LLC) and the LBJExpress (LBJ Infrastructure Group LLC.) This is a major breakthrough for the Europe-based toll systems group that has been big all around the world, except in the US. That changed recently when it acquired Mark IV, huge for its single contract with the E-ZPass Group for supply of electronic transponders and readers, but with no system integration capability.

As the table nearby of major items shows the work is more than toll systems but also includes traffic management systems and networking for a fully integrated managed lane system within the full Texan highway menu of driver options which in addition to variably priced toll lanes managed for free flow also includes tax-supported freeway lanes and frontage road lanes.

About 33 toll zones - the number is not completely firmed up -  are to be fitted out with the full array of all-electronic toll gear and systems on more than 30 centerline miles of massive 3-option highway.

These are tight urban highways being completely rebuilt to - in the case of the LBJ mostly 2x4 freeway lanes, 2x2 frontage road lanes and 2x3 toll managed lanes. In the case of the NTE, it is mostly 2x2 lanes of each of the three forms of roadway.

(Table of key quanities nearby is a corrected version posted Aug 9 06:30)

Kapsch vs ACS, Raytheon

Kapsch beat out ACS/Xerox and Raytheon for the work. Other big system integrators Federal Signal and TransCore did not bid on the work.

In a press statement Kapsch says the project is "the largest and most comprehensive system to be built in the US in the last 20 years."

In the statement Chris Murray president and CEO Kapsch in north America is quoted: "We are delighted to have been selected to participate in what will be one of the premier transportation systems in North America. Innovative investment approaches and advanced transportation solutions like this managed lanes project are critical to the successful delivery of new infrastructure projects needed to keep America strong and the economy moving."

Georg Kapsch, chief executive officer of Kapsch international is quoted as saying winning the work "represents a major accomplishment" since it involves trust in the company delivering "superior, technology-centric end to end solutions" in a highly competitive market.

In legal terms there are two separate contracts with two legally distinct concession companies for the LBJ Express and North Tarrant Express but both are similar subsidiaries of Cintra and Meridiam Infrastructure and they share some key staff.

Sara Wheeler previously at Harris County, Houston's tollroads is toll systems director for both LBJExpress and North Tarrant Express. We talked to her and Robert Hinkle, corporate affairs director at the North Tarrant Express.

Wheeler says that the toll system being deployed for them by Kapsch is unusual in several respects.

Single gantry AET, all-overhead

All toll equipment for each toll zone will be deployed overhead on a single gantry.  And nothing in the pavement.

Highest on the gantries are laser scanners that do vehicle detection, tracking and shape based classification (pink in the diagram nearby.)

Next are front and rear cameras (blue) for license plate imaging. Finally the RF antennas for the readers (green).

Unusual for an American toll road is that there is nothing in the roadway pavement - no loops.

Wheeler says the two projects are large complex deployments with a tight schedule and all their resources are focused on making it a success.  

Shape based rather than axle count classification

Shape-based vehicle classification is established technology in Europe, Canada, Chile and Australia but it is unusual in the US - although in Texas Raytheon did some open road toll zones with lasers in the Austin area.

Engineers become quite passionate when you talk in-pavement loops versus overhead scanners for vehicle tracking and classification.

Loop enthusiasts say heavy rain, dust or snow can degrade the performance of overhead scanners, while scanner enthusiasts says loops in the pavement are an extra maintenance burden.  Each concedes high accuracy but claims an edge.

Wheeler says they're very happy with the plan to use overhead scanners and won't miss the more familiar in-pavement loops.

At TxDOT the concession grantor a spokesman told us the choice of systems was left to the concessionaire but they use some shape-based classification themselves.

Projects

LBJ Express is 17 miles of 2x2 and 2x3 express toll lanes in the center of rebuilt I-635 LBJ Freeway a major east-west route across the north of the Dallas area from US75 to I-35E plus similar toll managed lanes on the outside of freeway lanes for a distance south from I-635 on I-35E Stemmons Freeway. The project enhances east-west some north-south mobility, giving motorists the option to buy managed free flow, more reliable travel.

The toll express lanes are part of a larger TxDOT rebuild of the I-635 that has been going on for a decade. Eventually there will be 2x3 tolled express lanes, located for much of the length below 2x4 freeway lanes, those being  partially cantilevered over for a stretch.

Some $3.2 billion is being spent on the LBJ.

The Express Lanes are a 52 year concession. Major investors include Meridiam Infrastructure and the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System.

NTE is a $2.5 billion rebuild and expansion of 13.5 miles of major east-west highways between Ft Worth and Dallas Fort Worth International Airport area including I-820, TX121/183 Airport Freeway between I-35W and Industrial Boulevard in north Tarrant County. Included is heavy rebuild, addition of new 2x2 toll managed lanes and frontage roads and enhanced interchanges. Construction began in 2010 and is due for completion in 2015.

http://www.kapsch.net/en/Pages/default.aspx

http://www.lbjexpress.com

LBJ video: http://www.lbjexpress.com/VideoPopup.asp?PAGE=HP&ID=1

http://www.northtarrantexpress.com/

NTE video: http://www.northtarrantexpress.com/Videos.asp

http://www.cintra.es/

TOLLROADSnews 2012-08-06 CORRECTIONS 2012-08-08 13:00

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