The Federal Highway Administration this month gave Arizona approval to proceed with plans for the state's first major public-private-partnership project, the $1.9-billion Loop 202/South Mountain freeway in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

FHWA signed a record of decision March 5, and according to the Arizona Dept. of Transportation, the agency will immediately begin acquiring right-of-way, selecting the construction team and finalizing plans. Five development teams have submitted statements of qualifications to ADOT and will move on to the next stage of the selection process. The final development team is expected to be chosen by January 2016.

"We are currently reviewing the submitted statement of qualifications from the five teams. After the review process, three or four teams will be selected to submit technical proposals," says Tim Tait, ADOT assistant division director of communications.

The development teams are Connect 202 Enterprises, South Mountain Mobility Group, Salini Impregilo/Fisher JV, South Mountain Development Group and South Mountain Freeway Partners.

Although the project will be the first P3 road project in the state's history, Tait says, only public funds will be used. Financing will come from a combination of voter-approved transportation taxes and federal highway monies. The private-partnership portion of the project will entail a 30-year maintenance agreement.

"The maintenance agreement details are currently being developed," Tait says. "The developer is expected to manage and repair capital assets."

The 22-mile freeway will have four lanes in each direction, including one HOV lane in each direction. More than 78 bridges are expected to be built as part of the project. The freeway will connect with Interstate 10 at both ends: in the east valley where the current operational portion of the Loop 202/Santan Freeway terminates, between Chandler and Pecos roads, and in the west valley, between 55th and 63rd avenues.