Houstonian Corner (V14-I8)

Next Phase of $1.4-Billion Grand Parkway to Be Design-Built Option

TxDOT expects contract award this year, groundbreaking in early 2013

Ground could be broken early next year on a $1.4 billion project that will complete the next phase of the Grand Parkway (State Highway 99) in Harris and Montgomery counties. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has announced it is moving forward with a design-build strategy that it is confident will accelerate plans for the project. And 2.5 million people in the greater Houston area breathed a sigh of (traffic) relief.

“This is a win-win situation for drivers and businesses in Houston,” said Ned Holmes, Texas transportation commissioner. “The design-build option is an ideal approach for this project to provide a high-quality facility and the best value for the state.”

TxDOT officials expect to issue a draft Request for Proposals (RFP) early next month for the project. The project includes development of approximately 37 miles of new toll road for segments F1, F2 and G of the Grand Parkway. This section will create a major link connecting US 59 North to US 59 South. Officials see this as a major link in the regional transportation system.

Last November, TxDOT officials received a number of responses to a Request for Qualification (RFQ) from teams entering into a design-build contract or concession agreement. Those RFQs were due earlier this month. As a result of the responses, TxDOT has chosen to use the design-build method and later this month will review and select what it deems are the best teams to compete for the contract.

Legislation from the last session of the Texas Legislature gave TxDOT authority to develop nearly a dozen specific projects, among them the Grand Parkway, through comprehensive development agreements. Under that scenario, TxDOT can partner with the private sector for the design, construction and possibly even the financing, operation and maintenance of a project.

Fort Bend County Commissioner James Patterson was a member of one of the local committees created by the legislation to determine the best route for completion of the 11 projects. Patterson said the state is “at a great milestone” in the Grand Parkway project, calling it a “critical phase” of the Grand Parkway project.

TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson said all of the 11 projects are reviewed and managed on their own merits and it was determined that the design-build option was the best way to move forward on the Grand Parkway project. TxDOT officials noted that competition among contractors and low interest rates ensured that going forward with this project was the right thing to do and at the right time. They also point out that the state retains ownership of the project at all times. “Our goal is to provide safe, reliable and economical transportation solutions for Texas,” said Wilson.
TxDOT will continue acquiring right-of-way needed for the project throughout the RFP process. The agency is anticipating awarding a contract by the end of this year with groundbreaking in early 2013.

Anwar Karim, Chief Information Officer, Texas A&M University-Commerce

Career highlights and education: Anwar Karim has had wide-ranging information technology-related experiences, both from institutions of higher learning and corporate sectors. Previously he has served three different, both private and public, institutions as Chief Information Officer, Director of IT Services, Director of Networks & Computing, and Information Systems faculty. Karim’s corporate experiences include working for global Fortune 500 company as Manager of IT Infrastructure Capacity Management, Manager of IT Sourcing, Manager of Web and Application Engineering Services and Architect of Business Intelligence and Knowledge Management. Karim earned his BBA in mathematics from Southern Arkansas University, his MBA in finance from Clarion University of Pennsylvania and a Master’s in Information Systems from DePaul University.

What I like best about my job is: that I am in position to directly and positively contribute toward the goals of Texas A&M University-Commerce. Being the first chief information officer of an institution that is growing fast and striving to be a regional leader under President Dan Jones’ leadership is very exciting.

The best advice I’ve received for my current job is:  Looking out for institutional dynamics and finding ways to work with the existing systems to advance organizational goals.
Advice you would give a new hire in your office:  Change is the only constant in life. Accept it.

If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found:  at home. Time with my family is very important to me. My leisure activities revolve around my family.
People would be surprised to know that I:  speak four languages. How well I speak any of those languages is entirely a different matter.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: is that Texas A&M University-Commerce is on the move. It is very exciting to see the amount of activities ranging from increased student population, addition of new programs, hiring of new faculty, increase in research and scholarly activities, etc. that are happening on the campus.


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