ADOT eyes P3 for I-17 improvements

Finding a fix for frequent traffic congestion on Arizona’s I-17 corridor that fits the budget is no easy task, but ADOT Office of P3 Initiatives director Gail Lewis thinks a P3 could be the right answer.

Arizona's I-17 corridor suffers from heavy congestion, and a vehicle accident at the wrong time can shut down commerce between Phoenix and Northern Arizona. Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is working to find a solution that fits the budget. 

Should a public-private partnership (PPP; P3) be used, payfors being mulled by ADOT at the moment include tolls and fees, revenue bonds, and “Grant Application Notes”, according to a recent presentation delivered by ADOT Office of P3 Initiatives director Gail Lewis to the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organisation (CYMPO).  

According to the Prescott Daily Courier, Lewis presented a variety of near- and long-term solutions to the CYMPO, with near-term plans including a new $44 million northbound climbing lane from Black Canyon City to Sunset Point or a $100 to $125 million reversible rush-hour traffic lane (plus right-of-way costs). One long-term proposal is a $500 million project to add three southbound lanes and four northbound lanes (plus right of way costs).  

Each of these projects would put a severe strain on ADOT resources, being that the organisation has about $25 million per year in available cash flow for the next five years. 

Currently ADOT is working on several P3 projects and initiatives, including: the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway project that saw shortlisting of three potential teams in March and is set for construction to begin next year; a GEICO partnership to install “Safe Phone Zone” signs at highway rest areas; a partnership to design and build a new headquarters for ADOT in Flagstaff; a plan to replace all high pressure sodium lights with LED lights for the freeway network for the Phoenix Maintenance District (PMD); and a storm water pump rehabilitation project to mitigate flooding risks on PMD freeways. 

Other potential P3s under consideration include development of compressed natural gas (CNG) facilities, a corporate sponsorship of statewide assets to help offset operating costs, port of entry redesign projects, a new north-south highway development plan in Pinal County, and a decades-old pipeline dream project to install an access-controlled, high-capacity transportation facility connecting Phoenix with Las Vegas to help better connect the Intermountain Western region of the US. 

Before moving forward with a P3 procurement, ADOT will conduct feasibility studies utilising CDM Smith, a contracted third-party consulting firm that will work with Lewis to establish whether there is a need for the project, how much it should cost to complete, what the approximate scope of the project would be, and whether there is public support to continue ahead.

The agency would also need to complete a Value for Money (VfM) assessment, technical studies, and traffic studies. According to the Courier, Lewis estimated that the initial component of a P3 proposal will be available for public scrutiny by December.