Arizona's road authority, the Arizona Dept. of Transportation, helps propel the Southwest economy. While the agency self-performs smaller maintenance and construction jobs, it also builds deep partnerships with contracting firms on a myriad of significant projects.

Contractors praise the work done by the state agency to benefit both the construction industry and those that depend on the roads and highways that ADOT builds and maintains.

"Sundt has been building highways for ADOT for more than 50 years and has always appreciated its commitment to safety, quality and partnering," says Mike Hoover, executive vice president and chief operating officer with Sundt Construction Inc. "ADOT's commitment to working with the contracting industry to resolve challenges and to build a strong working relationship is one of the best in the country. In fact, ADOT led the nation in its innovative partnering strategies since the early 1990s."

In 2014, ADOT landed two projects on ENR Southwest's Top Starts list (see p. 11), including the $109.7-million Loop 202 improvements and the $72.6-million Loop 101 improvements in the east portion of the Phoenix metro area.

ADOT is also a key player on many of the state's rural roadways. With FNF Construction, the agency garnered an ENR Southwest Best Projects award in 2014 for State Route 89, which included work done in conjunction with the Navajo Nation.

Meeting Traffic Demands

Due to rising levels of traffic in the Phoenix metro area, it became necessary to widen the Loop 202 and Loop 101 corridors to accommodate future growth of the Scottsdale, Tempe and Chandler suburbs, says Madhu Reddy, district engineer for ADOT's Phoenix construction district. The two intersecting Loop projects began construction in 2014 and are slated for completion in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Pulice Construction, Phoenix, is the general contractor on both projects.

"ADOT has successfully provided the residents of Maricopa County with over 200 miles of new freeway since 1985 through visionary leadership and local funding initiatives to create strong economic corridors connecting valley residents, businesses and visitors," says Chris Rogers, Pulice president. "A big reason for that accelerated delivery is that ADOT embraced alternative project delivery methods early, fully utilizing design-build, construction manager at-risk, job order contracting and now public-private partnerships."

The highways incorporate technology upgrades, including new camera systems and sensors to monitor traffic flow and help ensure the safety of commuters. Data will also inform future funding.

"We always look at how efficiently we can deliver projects, keeping safety and innovation in mind," Reddy says.

Mason Williams, construction manager, Kiewit, agrees, based on the firm's experience working with ADOT on a litany of projects including an HOV-lane addition project on the Loop 101, completed in 2011.

"ADOT is a proponent of following a formal partnering process on their projects. For the Loop 101 project, ADOT led this effort," he says. "Everyone involved in the project understood that the partnering process could only be a success if all team members were committed to it. ADOT inspired open communications at all times, which was vital to the success of this time-sensitive project."

Recession Impacted State Roads

The economic downturn set the whole country back financially, but John Halikowski, director for ADOT, says it also forced the agency to put some future projects to the side for the time being.

"For us, what we had to do was move projects that were slated for future construction out of the five-year program and we had to focus on priority projects that benefited the economy," Halikowski says. Due to declining revenue, "a lot of our discretionary funds are now put toward maintaining and preserving the existing investment that we have on the ground," he adds.

Consequently, when the state's revenue took a hit, projects funded by special taxing authorities moved to the fore. Projects in the Phoenix area benefit from Maricopa County's half-cent sales tax, including loops 101/202 and the $1.9-billion South Mountain Freeway, a new route to allow interstate traffic to bypass the busy I-10 corridor through downtown Phoenix.