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South Mountain Freeway to be constructed as public-private partnership

News | January 7, 2016 | By:

Development team selected and construction to start next summer on largest highway project in Arizona history

A press release from the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) says that the agency has selected a preferred developer for the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway, which remains on track for construction beginning in summer 2016. It will be the largest-ever highway project in the state, according to the release.

In addition to the massive scope of this project, it is also the first highway public-private partnership (P3) in Arizona history. The press release noted that, while the South Mountain Freeway will not be a toll road, the P3 will allow ADOT to construct the project at an accelerated pace and at a lower cost.

After an unsolicited P3 proposal was submitted in 2013, ADOT sought proposals from other qualified teams vying to develop the 22-mile-long freeway. It is also a critical direct link between the Phoenix/Maricopa County West Valley and East Valley. From the five initial P3 proposals submitted to ADOT, three finalists were selected after a qualifications assessment to advance the selection process.

Next, the press release said that “an extensive review” proceeded that included representatives from ADOT, the Federal Highway Administration, the Maricopa Association of Governments MAG), and the city of Phoenix. Connect 202 Partners was chosen as the “best value” developer. Key members of the development team include Fluor Enterprises Inc., Granite Construction Co., and Ames Construction Inc., with Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc. as the leading design engineering firm.

All three teams participating as finalists in the process were encouraged to use innovation and to develop alternative concepts to save time and money, while adhering to all environmental commitments.

The release stated: “The goal is to create an innovative public-private partnership that will have a private developer design and construct the freeway, as well as maintain the new highway for 30 years.”

This public-private partnership will reduce costs to taxpayers while accelerating construction. Typically, a project of this magnitude would be split into several smaller projects, but the South Mountain Freeway will be completed as a single project by one contracting team, according to the ADOT press release.

“While ADOT has successfully built and managed hundreds of miles of freeways in the Phoenix metropolitan area, following a public-private partnership path for the first time was an appropriate tool for the South Mountain Freeway,” said ADOT director John Halikowski. “ADOT will be able to complete this much-needed project sooner as a result, while increasing the likelihood of saving taxpayer dollars.”

ADOT is expected to finalize the contract with Connect 202 Partners by mid-February. Construction is expected to take up to four years to complete.

“The South Mountain Freeway is a critical piece of the MAG freeway program,” said Scottsdale Mayor W.J. “Jim” Lane, chair of the Maricopa Association of Governments Regional Council. “The freeway has been included in the voter-approved Regional Transportation Plan since 1985 and will provide improved mobility for residents in the MAG region. The design, construction, and maintenance of the freeway by a private developer are a unique and innovative approach to delivering this important project.”

The South Mountain Freeway will be constructed with four lanes in each direction—three general-use lanes and one lane for high-occupancy vehicles (HOVs)—and will include features such as rubberized asphalt and aesthetics designed in partnership with Loop 202 communities.

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