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Rising Costs May Determine Futures of Arizona Freeway Construction Projects

Sat December 24, 2005 - West Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

PHOENIX (AP) Transportation planners and highway builders are concerned that some projects in the Phoenix metropolitan area could be delayed unless prices stabilize.

The average cost of building a freeway has risen 20 percent to 30 percent in the past several months.

Soaring costs for building materials, shortages of cement and skilled labor, and the fallout from rebuilding the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina are pushing up the price tags for freeway construction.

“We feel we can mitigate some of these issues,” said Eric Anderson, transportation director for the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), the county’s planning agency. “But if costs continue to rise as they have in the past six months, who knows?”

Projected costs for the widening of Interstate 10 in the Tucson metropolitan area had risen 58 percent — to $193 million from $122 million — last month even before bidding on the project had begun.

The increased cost of the project, due to start in early summer 2006, is expected to delay other needed highway work in the area.

But the Tucson-area highway builders don’t have the advantage of Maricopa County’s half-cent transportation tax, said Matt Burdick, a spokesman of ADOT.

The rising cost of the interstate project pushed the area’s limited highway fund off kilter.

In the Phoenix area, MAG and the Arizona Department of Transportation are tracking the higher costs and projecting the possible effect on freeway construction.

ADOT will deliver its findings in January.

The future costs of such commodities as cement, steel, wood, asphalt and PVC pipe have become highly unpredictable, Anderson said. The question is whether prices will continue to rise unabated in the face of increased demand, will level off, or will go down as fuel prices have in recent weeks.

“There is so much uncertainty about the cost side,” Anderson said. “We’re concerned about it, and we want to make sure we understand the problem and that we take action on a proactive basis rather than waiting until a crisis hits.”

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