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Agreements and construction done long before incorporation can result in unexpected consequences when improvements or new construction is being initiated by the town. Thus is the situation with the town’s plan to pave the shoulders along Fountain Hills Boulevard. Construction has come to a halt with only the southbound lanes completed, albeit greatly enhanced over what was originally planned.

The project to pave the shoulders along Fountain Hills Boulevard has been in the capital plan for a number of years, but with the deadlines for the opportunity to use grant funding for the project approaching, the work was planned for this past fiscal year.

The primary purpose for doing the work is to prevent roadway damage due to erosion from storm water runoff. With the grades involved on the roadway, this is a significant issue. The town was using Congestion Management Air Quality federal funding for the project, which covered most of the costs, but that also required the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) to engineer and manage the construction.

When construction began the contractor discovered shallow utility lines where the project began on the southbound (west) side. Anticipating the possibility of damaging the utilities during construction, the project was halted to review the situation. It should be noted that the utilities involved had signed off on the original design for the project.

It was determined that the original design for a roadside ditch would not be acceptable considering the shallow utility lines. The option chosen to address this was to install curb and gutter to manage the drainage instead of a roadside ditch. That option also required the width of the pavement to be expanded from six to eight feet.

Staff also explained the benefits of the curb and gutter option over requiring the relocation of utility lines. The relocation of the lines would require an additional delay of months, and also due to an agreement with the former road districts in Fountain Hills, the town would be required to pay for any relocation work by SRP, which would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It was also concluded that the curb and gutter provides a more finished roadway appearance as well as more efficient drainage.

After completing the work on the west side of the roadway between Ironwood and Pinto drives, ADOT in consultation with the Town of Fountain Hills determined it would be necessary to cancel the remainder of the contract.

The letter outlining the cancellation states that “this decision was made due to utility conflicts preventing the full execution of the construction work as advertised in the contract. The solution to this issue would require a budget increase that would be a violation of (state law), which prohibits altering the scope of work if the cost of the change exceeds 10 percent of the original contact amount.”

The work on the east or northbound side of Fountain Hills Boulevard, at least for the time being, remains in limbo.

Town Manager Grady Miller told the council there are options for completing the east side, but he was unprepared to provide detail at the Aug. 13 meeting. He said those options would be presented at a later time.