So how does ADOT decide which highway improvement projects to pursue?

In the case of the $45 million improvement of the Silver Lakes/Superior stretch of U.S. Highway 60, it was a priority project that will complete a larger plan connecting Phoenix east to the border with New Mexico. Moving the project’s start from 2016 to next June assures that the overall statewide improvement plan is completed before less important projects are begun and the highway improvement budget it cut further by the Arizona legislature.

“There are many different ways to prioritize a project,” explained Dustin Kruger, public information officer with ADOT. “Among these are the significance of the route, average daily travel, the number of accidents, safety factors, route continuity, cost effectiveness measured by the project cost per motorists served, and the recommendations of our engineers.”

An additional criterion is also considered in the ranking of candidate projects for each program category. The highest ranking projects are then considered for inclusion in the construction program to the extent that funding is available.

U.S. 60 met all these criteria and thus warranted being moved up on the calendar.

“A highway construction program is a product of input from community, local governments, planning organizations, civic organizations, the business community, and ADOT professional planners and engineers,” Kruger said.

ADOT planners and engineers rely on a number of technical measures to identify highway needs. These measures include the ADOT pavement management system, traffic counts, truck studies, crash studies, route corridor studies and the Long Range Transportation Plan.

The State Transportation Board plays a key role, too. The board is granted policy powers and duties in addition to serving in an advisory capacity to the director.

The board is responsible for establishing a complete system of state highway routes and has the final authority on establishing, opening, relocating, altering, vacating or abandoning any portion of a state route or state highway, including establishment of parkways and historic and scenic roadways.

The board awards construction contracts, monitors the status of construction projects and has the exclusive authority to issue revenue bonds for financing needed transportation improvements throughout the state.

“Due to a major decline in transportation funding, ADOT was forced to reduce the 2014-2018 Five-Year Transportation Facilities Construction Program by a total of $350 million statewide and has moved toward preserving existing highway infrastructure. This significant reduction in funding means fewer expansion projects will move forward, particularly in greater Arizona,” Kruger said.

U.S. 60 is one of the oldest federal highways in Arizona and is considered a major link for Phoenix to other major cities. Many sections of U.S. 60 have already been upgraded to modern four-lane highways, and the road in the Superior area is one of the last unimproved sections. Once completed, the trip from the New Mexico border to Phoenix will be substantially trimmed, an ADOT spokesman added.

Other projects that survived ADOT’s 2014 budget cuts are State Route 89 from Deep Well Ranch Road to South Chino Valley, Interstate 10 from Ehrenberg Port of Entry, U.S. 95 around the Fortuna Wash Bridge, State Route 260 around Lion Springs, and Interstate 17 up to Thousand Trails.

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