Sky Harbor refutes report of Sky Train cost

Jul 2, 2012, 8:07 AM | Updated: 4:30 pm

PHOENIX – 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, a report said.

But Phoenix Aviation Department officials insisted Monday that the PHX Sky
Train project “is on time and within its approved budget.”

The Arizona Republic reported that the PHX Sky Train is
being constructed in stages, largely because the Phoenix Aviation Department
doesn’t 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 with the newspaper
earlier this year. “But that was predicted in 2006, and the project’s not worth
the same in 2012 as it was in 2006.”

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.

Phoenix Aviation Department officials said in a statement Monday that the Sky
Train’s first stage will be completed by early next year and cost $644 million.

“Stage 1 on the PHX Sky Train between the light rail and the east economy parking and Terminal 4 — our busiest terminal — will be $644 million,” said Julie Rodriguez with Phoenix Sky Harbor. “That will be open in 2013 and is on time and on budget.”

The next stage will cost $244 million and open in early 2015, the department
said. Rodriguez said Stage 2 is also on time and on budget.

“Detailed project cost estimate, schedule and a plan of finance for the final
stage … has not yet been established,” the statement added.

Rodriguez said the cost and schedule of the third stage has not been finalized, but said the estimated total is $1.5 billion.

“We’re in the planning stages — the initial planning stages — of that final stage,” she said.

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

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.

No tax dollars are being used for the project, Fisher said. The bulk of the financing for the
train comes from a special $4.50 fee charged on every plane ticket.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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Sky Harbor refutes report of Sky Train cost