Moving Ahead, Winter Edition 2013

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Big news for the Fern Valley Interchange project in Phoenix is the release of a new traffic simulation video and an apparent low bidder — Hamilton Construction of Springfield — for the two-year construction project. There’s a flurry of activity as vegetation is cleared and utilities are moved in preparation for a 2014 start of interchange construction. The $72 million Fern Valley Interchange project will address Phoenix’s Interstate 5 interchange. Traffic congestion is especially severe during the morning and evening commutes. Existing and proposed development along the east side of I-5 in Phoenix has reduced the capacity and created safety issues at the interchange. Building a new interchange will require more than two full construction seasons to complete.

The project area includes I-5, Oregon 99 and Fern Valley Road. The work currently underway is highly visible. Trees and brush in the project area are being cleared in preparation for construction. Utility companies are setting new utility poles, stringing line and drilling new gas lines. “It looks, feels and sounds like highway construction,” said ODOT Public Information Officer Gary Leaming, “and, technically, it is. Really, though, it is just the opening act for two busy years.” ODOT pushed the bid date from last spring to November as right of way and design issues delayed the project. According to ODOT Project Leader Dick Leever, one of the benefits of the delay was more competitive bids. Six of the contractors that attended a prebid meeting in September ultimately filed a bid on the project. Hamilton Construction of Springfield is the apparent low bidder. The contractor will be formally selected before work can begin in the new year.

“Fall bid openings are typically more competitive and we get better prices than we would’ve seen in the spring,” said Leever. “Contractors coming off a summer construction season tend to crunch numbers harder as they look forward to the next construction season.” Crossing diamond design The project’s design leaves most nearby roadways west of the interchange relatively untouched while constructing the new interchange at a location just north of the existing bridge. “The interchange’s crossing diamond design provides a higher capacity to move traffic while reducing right of way needs,” Leever said. Vehicles crossing the interchange move to the opposite side of the road to either enter I-5 or to cross it, reducing the number of signal cycles for traffic to clear. The Missouri Department of Transportation was the first public agency in the United States to construct an interchange with the crossing diamond design. The project will also realign North Phoenix Road between Peterbuilt Motors Co. and Home Depot. The prime contractor will also be tasked with keeping traffic moving while upgrading the water line for the city of Phoenix.

New interchange video A frequent question from local drivers and Phoenix residents, including stakeholders who have followed the project’s long development process, is: How will drivers negotiate the new interchange design?

December 6, 2013