By Rebekah Morris and Roland Murphy for Arizona Builder’s Exchange
The preliminary five-year total for the City of Phoenix Capital Improvement Plan tops $4.6B, an impressive 30 percent increase over last year’s total. Departments with the largest expenditures are public transit, aviation and water supply. For perspective, the peak 5-yr total reached 7.0B in 2007, while dipping to a low of 3.22B in 2012.
Department Highlights & Lowlights
Departments with the largest spending the ones with dedicated revenue streams. Aviation looks to spend $950M in the next five years, funded in part by a Passenger Facility Charge on each boarding at Sky Harbor. Similarly, Water and Wastewater departments are partially supported by user fees, the utility bills everyone has to pay one way or another.
On the flip side, departmental needs like police and fire stations, libraries, and city-funded housing projects – once supported by development impact fees and General Obligation (GO) bonds – are fading. Also, projects that were consistently showing up in the last year of the five-year CIP have now been moved off indefinitely and are no longer included at all.
The last of the 2006 GO bond funds are being used in this 5-yr plan: $13.8M going toward the City Hall Fire Alarm upgrades, and the land purchase & design services for a future Fire Station #20.
The most massive project moving through City Council approval is the $690M Sky Train project. Gannett Fleming and Hensel Phelps are poised to lead the design and construction respectively. Design is scheduled to start this summer on the $250M Terminal 4 S1 Concourse, while the Terminal 3 redevelopment project continues, with $26M budgeted to finish it off.
City Hall Upgrades, Technology Takes Bigger Bite
The fire alarm upgrade in City Hall is scheduled to cost $5M for FY 17-18. Outdated technology used by City departments, including life safety, radio and microwave systems, is targeted for funding to upgrade. City-owned housing, such as Sunnyslope Manor, Frank Luke and Foothills Village, will receive ongoing maintenance and upgrade funds as well.
There is a new $10M Community Center planned for the Cesar Chavez Park with funding allocated in FY18-20. The City is contributing to the massive Margaret T Hance Park revitalization as well – $5M per year for the next three years. This is a just small portion of the overall $119M total project cost over the course of many years. Ongoing improvements to South Mountain Park, and the Phoenix Mountain Preserve take the lion’s share of the parks budget.
Transit & Solid Waste
Although the majority of transit capital funds go to purchases like buses ($35M/yr), the South Central Light Rail Extension does have a significant budget. A total of $48.2M from the City will go toward the project procured and managed by Valley Metro.
There is an interesting project slated for the Public Works Department’s Solid Waste program: a new incubator for firms to recycle hard-to-dispose-of items, cutting down the amount of waste entering the landfill and providing jobs in the process. The $14M project, in partnership with Arizona State University, is budgeted for the next two fiscal years.
Since passing the T2050 tax measure, the City has been able to fund road projects without being as dependent on HURF funds, which the State has routinely swept to balance the its books. The CIP shows items such as $19M for storm drain projects, $28.9M for undetermined major streets projects, $45.8M for T2050 streets projects, and another $57.9M for major maintenance projects. The City anticipates federal funding to be available for projects with a local match. In order to secure those federal funds, about $14M per year is in a fund specifically dedicated to unidentified projects eligible for federal funding.
Water & Wastewater
The 91st Avenue wastewater treatment plant will see continued investment, from piping upgrades to equipment, controls optimization and significant investment for future replacement work. All these projects appear to be ongoing with stable funding for each of the five years. Similarly, at the 23rd Avenue wastewater treatment plant, ongoing funding will repair and replace aging equipment, ensuring a long life for the significant capital asset.
For the water program, booster stations across the City will see investment, along with the Val Vista Water Treatment Plant, with $30M over the five-year horizon. The Deer Valley treatment plant will also see about $18M in upgrades, with the bulk of the rehabilitation coming in year 4.
The 24th Street treatment facility is slated for a $23M rehabilitation project in year two. The Union Hills treatment plant will undergo $19M in rehabilitation work, with the bulk of the funds being spent in year five.
The City will also take on a power redundancy program, ensuring water services are not lost during outages. Total funding for the effort tops $72M over five years.
Given what has seemed a long, tepid, sometimes glacial pace of economic recovery in Phoenix and across the state, it’s encouraging to see planners take a view beyond having to worry about the most immediate (or impending) fires. This CIP, with its focus on bringing equipment back up to standards, reinforcing vital infrastructure that isn’t at immediate risk, and planning for features and services that will improve residents’ lives for years to come, is one of the better indicators we’ve seen that the growth and recovery of the last several years has thoroughly taken hold and that an optimistic a view toward a better future may finally be warranted.
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