Mitigating impacts to day-trippers, commuters and truck drivers will challenge a Kiewit-Fann joint venture when it begins construction in 2022 on the high-volume 23-mile stretch of I-17 from Anthem Way to Sunset Point less than an hour north of Phoenix.

Improvements on the $445.94-million project include new northbound and southbound general purpose lanes on 15 miles of the freeway from Anthem Way to Black Canyon City. The scope also calls for replacing two bridges and a bridge deck, widening six bridges and adding an eight-mile flex lane system. The Arizona Dept. of Transportation project, including construction and administration, will take three years to complete.

More than one million travelers use the roadway annually, says Kimberly Noetzel, deputy communications director for major projects at ADOT. “It’s the primary route for motorists traveling between the metro-Phoenix region and popular destinations in northern Arizona such as Prescott, Sedona, Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. 

“It’s also one of Arizona’s key commerce corridors that moves people and goods between the central and northern parts of the state, and it provides a critical link between I-10 and I-40, two of the nation’s principal east-west interstates,” she says.

Allen Mills, project director from the Phoenix office of Omaha-based Kiewit Corp., adds: “The biggest challenge we anticipate is managing and minimizing impacts to traffic during construction—especially since widenings and flex lanes will be built adjacent to interstate traffic.”

Since much of that travel, with its heavy congestion and backups, occurs on weekends, ADOT and the KFJV team will limit most lane closures to weeknights from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., Noetzel says.


Flex Lanes a First

Although this is the first time ADOT will use flex lanes, they have been successfully operated and maintained for years in other states, she explains. Adjacent to but physically separated from southbound I-17 by concrete barriers, they will carry traffic in one direction, depending on the greatest need, along the eight miles of winding road that runs between Black Canyon City and Sunset Point, where the grade is as steep as 6.17 %.

“The flex lanes will be able to carry heavy northbound traffic on Fridays or heavy southbound traffic on Sundays,” Noetzel says.

In addition, ADOT will be able to open the flex lanes to accommodate traffic if a crash or other incident causes long delays. At its traffic operations center in Phoenix, ADOT will monitor flow and electronically control access to the gates.


Team Chemistry

Kiewit and Fann complement each other as joint venture partners, says Michael Fann, CEO of Prescott, Ariz.-based Fann Contracting.

“Kiewit, as the managing member, has extensive experience with large, complex projects and has the manpower, equipment and expertise needed to perform the extensive earthmoving and bridge construction requirements for this project,” he explains. “And our firm specializes in custom crushing and asphalt production and placement throughout Arizona.”

Additional challenges, Fann notes, include hard-rock excavation, construction phasing, elevation differentials, and environmental concerns. To those Mills adds working in mountainous terrain, controlled rock blasting next to the roadway and establishing access to several of the bridge locations.

Responding to pandemic issues, the team developed a plan to satisfy labor needs and materials procurement. To address the former, the joint venture will engage and train local workers to join its crews.

“We continue to monitor and adapt to current supply-chain issues, including potential material shortages, long lead times and unknown price escalations,” Mills says.

“Through our centralized supply network, we do have the ability to reach out to multiple suppliers who may have the necessary materials already in stock as well as make detailed forecasts of future prices of critical materials,” he adds. 

The Kiewit/Fann team includes DBI Services LLC; CONSOR Engineers LLC, dba Apex Design; T.Y. Lin International; Lee Engineering; Terracon Consultants Inc.; Wheat Design Group Inc.; Y2K Engineering and Pinyon Environmental Inc.