The Prescott Pioneer Stories by Ray Newton
A longtime transportation annoyance — delayed traffic on I-17 — may come to an end — but it may take about three years.
After several years of environmental and design studies, the Arizona Department of Transportation has approved a $446-million project to improve Interstate 17 between Sunset Point on the north to the Anthem Way traffic interchange to the south.
The 23-mile improvement project likely will begin in April or May.
The project is intended to help solve a decades-long concern of traffic delays caused by accidents, weather or other uncontrollable factors.
A contract was awarded to Fann Contracting in Prescott, and co-developer Kiewit Engineering Group Inc., one of North America’s largest engineering and construction organizations. The developer team will go by the acronym KFJV — Kiewit-Fann Joint Venture team.
The interstate to be improved is in mountainous terrain from Anthem in Maricopa County to the south to Sunset Point in Yavapai County to the north.
I-17, the primary connection between Flagstaff on Interstate 40 and Interstate 10 in Phoenix, is the most important highway between the Valley of the Sun and the communities in northern Arizona. It carries well over a million travelers each year, according the Arizona Department of Transportation.
Fann Contracting Eager to Begin
Mike Fann, owner Fann Contracting in Prescott, said the project will include widening 15 miles of the four-lane highway, replacing two bridges and one bridge deck replacement, widening of 10 bridges, and perhaps most important, the creation of eight miles of what are being called “flex lanes.”
“The only time we expect any traffic delay at all because of construction — when we have to blast. As soon as that action is taken and we have assurance that no safety issues are involved, traffic will be moving again,” Fann said.
The 1-17 flex lanes will operate as separate two-lane roads that carry one direction of traffic at a time in either a north or south direction.
“Flow of traffic will be determined by what is the greatest need at the time along that winding 8 miles of mountain driving between Black Canyon City and Sunset Point,” Fann said. For example, flex lanes will carry major northbound traffic on a Friday or Saturday, but on a Sunday, ADOT will be able to open the flex lanes to take southbound traffic to Phoenix.
Flex lanes will be next to but separated with concrete barriers from the southbound 1-17 lanes. Access to flex lanes will be controlled by carefully monitored gates.
Fann said during peak construction times, more than 500 people will be employed. The KFJV team will be responsible for maintaining the safe and functional operation of this stretch of I-17 up to three years after construction is done.
•$40 million, Arizona’s higher-than-expected recovery revenue and Federal COVID-19 relief funds
•$130 million, state highway funds appropriated by Arizona Legislature in 2019
•$90 million, Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant
•$50 million, Maricopa Association of Governments
•$135.9 million, federal and matching state highway funds, including $83.6 million approved by the Arizona State Transportation Board.
More information is available at www.azdot.gov.gov/I17-anthem-way-to-sunset point.