ADOT: South Mountain Freeway agreement delivers lower cost, shorter timeline

Construction to start this summer on largest highway project in state history

ADOTlogoPHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Transportation will deliver the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway three years sooner and at a cost savings topping $100 million by taking an innovative approach to selecting the team to design, build and maintain the highway.

“This is another example of government working at the speed of business to save taxpayer money and improve the lives of Arizonans,” said Governor Doug Ducey. “Thanks to hard work and collaboration, the South Mountain Freeway will be completed under budget and faster than expected.”

The Department of Transportation finalized a public-private partnership Friday with the project team – Connect 202 Partners – that will serve in all three roles.

“This first-of-its-kind highway contract in Arizona has not only reduced the overall cost but allowed ADOT to accelerate the entire project, meaning motorists will be able to benefit from this critical freeway sooner,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “That’s especially important in light of transportation needs today and into the future.”

The 22-mile freeway, expected to open by late 2019, will provide a long-planned direct link between the East Valley and West Valley and a much-needed alternative to Interstate 10 through downtown Phoenix. Approved twice by Maricopa County voters, the South Mountain Freeway will complete the Loop 202 and Loop 101 freeway system.

Connect 202 Partners will design and build the freeway corridor and provide maintenance for 30 years after construction. The team consists of Fluor Enterprises Inc., Granite Construction Co. and Ames Construction Inc., with Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc. as the lead designer.

The fixed $916 million contract for design and construction makes this the largest highway project in state history.

The amount required for the overall project is approximately $122 million less than anticipated because of innovative approaches Connect 202 Partners proposed for construction and engineering, as well as reducing the amount of property that must be acquired for the freeway.

While the phrase public-private partnership may evoke visions of a toll road, that isn’t the case with the South Mountain Freeway. Instead, this agreement, ADOT’s first for a highway project, provides the advantages of lower cost and shorter timeline that come from having one team not only design and build the freeway, but maintain it afterward.

The original plan called for construction of the freeway as nine individual projects. But after receiving an unsolicited proposal for a public-private partnership in 2013, ADOT decided to seek proposals using that approach.

Connect 202 Partners was selected as the “best value” developer in December 2015 following an extensive review that led to a final list of three prospective developer teams in March 2015. ADOT encouraged these teams to propose innovative concepts that would save time and money while adhering to all environmental commitments.

Innovations proposed by Connect 202 Partners include optimizing the design of the freeway to reduce the amount of right-of-way needed and improving efficiency by reducing the amount of earth needing to be hauled by trucks. The project will include construction of a 15-foot-wide multi-use trail along the existing Pecos Road alignment from 40th Street to 17th Avenue.

Even with the lower cost made possible by a public-private partnership agreement, motorists will enjoy the same modern amenities they have been accustomed to for decades, including a high-capacity freeway with four lanes of traffic in each direction including HOV lanes, rubberized asphalt, access-controlled interchanges and aesthetics that reflect the nearby communities.

The South Mountain Freeway, which will be paid for with state, federal and voter-approved regional transportation funding, has been a critical part of the region’s transportation plans since voters approved the Maricopa Association of Governments’ Regional Freeway Program in 1985. It also was part of the Regional Transportation Plan that Maricopa County voters approved in 2004.

“The award provides cost certainty on the largest transportation project in the Regional Transportation Plan,” said Scottsdale Mayor W.J. “Jim” Lane, chair of the Maricopa Association of Governments. “We now know the range of savings we can put toward the rest of the freeway program.”

Halikowski said support from the Maricopa Association of Governments, city of Phoenix and Federal Highway Administration has been essential to advancing the South Mountain Freeway.

Construction is scheduled to begin in summer 2016. Pre-construction activities, including geotechnical and utility work and property acquisition and preparation, have been underway since spring 2015 after ADOT received final federal clearance to move forward.

For more information, visit azdot.gov/SouthMountainFreeway.