Here's how highway construction incentives work to get you back on the road faster

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Here's how highway construction incentives help keep drivers moving.

If you're a driver in Houston, you know that the construction on the roads often feels like it will never end.

Many projects are underway in the area right now such as the widening of Highway 290 to ease congestion as a result of rapid population growth.

But sometimes to get the work done faster and to minimize the impact to drivers, incentives and disincentives are used.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, incentives and disincentives are applied to specific phases of construction where reduction in lane widths, and/or lane closures and detours are necessary in order to complete the work.

The work is considered milestoned, and the incentives and disincentives are applicable only to the milestoned work.

The incentive and disincentive amount awarded to the contractor is based on estimated costs to road users for each step of construction by determining the expected additional travel time required during the project.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration says that a contractor will lose money for every day that it overruns the set amount of time it's been given to complete a project.

For drivers, the takeaway is: The contractor is being offered bonus money to speed up the process, so we can all get where we're going.

The method is typically used for major, critical projects where drivers can't afford to have a huge inconvenience or delays.

To get the bonus, contractors must substantially complete the milestoned work under the number of days stipulated in the contract or else a disincentive will be assessed.

In Houston, traditional build-bid projects that include incentives and disincentives are U.S. 290 and the I-610/I-69 interchange.

The contract amount for the 290 program varies according to the highway section.

The estimated cost of the I-69/I-610 interchange reconstruction is $300 million.

Incentives and disincentives are not applied to design-build projects such as SH-288 and I-45 downtown.

The SH-288 expansion project cost is $815 million. Go here to see how it's funded.

Like Highway 290, the estimated costs for the North Houston Highway project involving the downtown loop system also vary by section.

The City of Houston's Houston Public Works department does not use incentives and disincentives for any type of project in its contracts.
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