The Associated Press State & Local Wire
A project to build a train that will shuttle passengers between a light rail station and Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport isn’t likely to be finished at its original price of $1.2 billion.
The Arizona Republic reports that the PHX Sky Train is being constructed in stages, largely because the Phoenix Aviation Department does not yet have the full funding arranged for the project that’s now in its sixth year.
Records show costs are expected to reach $1.6 billion by the time the project is completed, but a newsletter from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows the cost of the PHX Sky Train could top $2.3 billion.
“I think originally the cost was going to be $1.2 billion,” Assistant Aviation Director Tamie Fisher recalled in an interview earlier this year with The Arizona Republic. “But that was predicted in 2006, and the project’s not worth the same in 2012 as it was in 2006.”
No tax dollars are being used, she said. The bulk of the financing for the train comes from a special $4.50 fee charged on every plane ticket.
Phoenix officials have said the cost of a project such as the PHX Sky Train is difficult to pin down because it is unique and complex, requiring hundreds of workers and tons of concrete, steel, cable and wiring.
Wylie Bearup, Phoenix’s Street Transportation Department director, said the city, in unique projects of this magnitude, prefers to hire a construction manager to help keep down costs, monitor the project and oversee the development. Hiring the construction manager is a better move, he said, than calling upon contractors to submit their lowest bids a tack it usually takes on small projects worth a few thousand dollars.
Working with a construction manager, the city was able to come up with a projected cost $1.2 billion which is a ceiling that the project must stay under.
The ceiling can change, though. Every year, the City Council is asked to approve a five-year capital-improvement plan that details construction, repair and renovation projects for every department. The annual revised plan reflects expected changes in project costs, including reductions and increases.
City officials said the increases in the PHX Sky Train’s projected costs better reflect the rising costs of labor and materials the city expects to pay when it has the money to build the remainder of the project.
Testing on the PHX Sky Train will continue into early next year, when it’s expected to be ready for its first passengers.
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