Firms put in bids on Trans Texas project

AUSTIN, TX: Eight agency teams are vying for a contract to support what could be the largest public engineering project in Texas history.

AUSTIN, TX: Eight agency teams are vying for a contract to support what could be the largest public engineering project in Texas history.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TDOT) issued a public-information RFP in mid-June, shortly before asking engineering firms for proposals on developing the first stages

of the so-far-theoretical Trans Texas Project.

A pet project of Gov. Rick Perry (R), Trans Texas calls for developing 4,000 miles of 1,200-foot corridors that would include separate highway lanes for passenger vehicles and trucks, light rail, commuter rail and freight rail, and utility easements.

Agencies meeting the July 25 proposal deadline were Burson-Marsteller, Edelman, Hill & Knowlton, Fleishman-Hillard, TateAustin with Tuerff-Davis EnviroMedia, Christian Hubble, Sherry Matthews Advocacy Marketing, and Staats-Falkenberg. The final selection

is expected this fall.

A budget was not disclosed, but a sample fee schedule included with the RFP suggested a value in the range of $1 million per year. The two-year contract will be renewable for up to four years.

Edelman currently works with the TDOT on public outreach for State Highway 130, a proposed Austin bypass. EnviroMedia handles the Don't Mess with Texas campaign. And Sherry Matthews has worked on several traffic safety initiatives.

The agency sought proposals for a campaign emphasizing awareness research and measurement. The winning bidder will also develop a clearinghouse for information about Trans Texas.

The project requires extensive public involvement in the phase involving environmental assessment, but the TDOT decided to take public-information efforts further, said TDOT spokesperson Gabriela Garcia. "We wanted to go above and beyond what we normally would have to do," she said.

Historically, Texas' pay-as-you-go highway projects have been heavily reliant on federal money. But state voters and the legislature approved funding mechanisms over the past two years to accelerate highway construction. These options, which could enable massive projects like Trans Texas, include toll equity loans, local/regional bond issues, federal grants, and public/private concession agreements similar to those used in some European countries.

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