A contractor’s winning bid to reconstruct part of Magee Road in the Northwest is $7.3 million less than the engineer’s estimate, affirming an environment of competitive road construction pricing and encouraging Pima County officials to continue with aggressive fast-tracking of projects.

The Ashton Company, Inc., of Tucson bid $15.74 million to rebuild Magee from Mona Lisa to La Cañada. Ashton’s bid was the lowest among 11 qualified bids for the work. Pima County Supervisors approved the contract award Feb. 15.

The engineer’s estimate for the project was $23.05 million, about one-third higher than the awarded contract.

Pima County has worked to bring projects to bid as quickly as possible so it can take advantage of the current construction cost market, according to Rick Ellis, engineering division manager for the Pima County Department of Transportation. As an example in the Northwest, taxpayers are paying $13.2 million to improve La Cañada between Ina and Calle Concordia. The engineer’s estimate for that work, which was bid in late summer 2009, was $22.6 million.

“That trend is continuing,” Ellis said. The Magee bid “was the sign we wanted, with good, competitive bids. It’s been worth it, the time and effort” to accelerate design and engineering work. “Unequivocally, that paid off,” he continued. “We have outstanding pricing. I’m ecstatic over the opportunity.”

This central Magee Road improvement is the first of three phases of work on the east-west roadway between Oracle and Thornydale roads. The current project extends along Magee from the area of Mona Lisa and Shannon roads on the west, across La Cholla and a reconfigured “jug handle” intersection, and on to La Cañada on the east. It’ll physically intersect with the La Cañada project “that will be wrapping up this summer and fall,” Ellis said.

Preliminary work has begun on Magee, to include vegetation salvage and utility relocation. Detour construction is anticipated. The county plans “partnering sessions” with those involved during March or early April.

“My expectation is construction would begin sometime in April,” Ellis said. The first order of construction business is drainage work, and installation of a large box culvert on the Carmack Wash where it crosses beneath the roadway. Total project length is 440 working days.

Central Magee is the first of four county projects “stacked this summer” to take advantage of the bidding environment, Ellis continued. Upcoming are bids on the south end of La Cañada, between River and Ina, a total project estimated at $35.75 million to widen La Cañada to four lanes for .8 of 1 mile; the north end of La Cholla, from Magee to Overton, with an engineer’s total project estimate of $28.7 million to take that 2.5-mile roadway from two to four lanes; and the western section of Magee, from Thornydale to Mona Lisa, an estimated $32.92 million widening to four lanes for 1.9 miles.

“It’s a nice little stagger, a nice sequencing,” Ellis said.

Funds for the Magee work come from the voter-approved Regional Transportation Authority sales tax (84 percent), impact fees (11 percent), and state-shared highway user revenue funds (5 percent). The Magee project represents the last of Pima County’s obligations for the five-year first phase of work under the RTA mandate approved by voters in May 2006, Ellis said.

“We will fulfill that legal obligation to the voters,” he concluded.

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