Lane Change: Old Road Recycled to Build New Stretch of I-10

PICACHO, Ariz. – About 80 million tons of asphalt are recycled every year throughout the U.S., but the Arizona Department of Transportation is using old pavement from Interstate 10 to build new eastbound lanes near this unincorporated community. In the process, an ADOT spokesman says the department is saving money and time, and decreasing its environmental impact.

Usually during construction, ADOT moves materials over a mile away from the construction site, but on this project, material from a torn-up 4-mile stretch of highway from Eloy to Picacho was moved only 200 yards offsite. ADOT uses pointed cylinders and other tools to break up the old asphalt, concrete and dirt, then mixes it together for use as a foundation for the new lanes.

Spokesman Tom Herrmann said ADOT is using the old material for the new eastbound lanes “to create a base so that we can pave on there. We’re saving time. We’re saving money, and we’re not adding any materials to any landfills. It’s been very important for us to preserve the beauty that is Arizona.”

The department also is recycling the 30,000 feet of guard rails from the Picacho site and reusing the rails that are in good condition on other projects around the state.

This stretch of Interstate 10 was built in the mid-1960s.

“This is really an unusual case,” Hermann said. “We’re out here in the middle of the desert in central Arizona. We have an opportunity here to do something special.”

Kamil Kaloush, a professor at Arizona State’s School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, said recycled materials can be effective.

“If it is designed correctly and added at the proper percentage, it will be just as good as the version material or the new construction,” Kaloush said.

Recycling materials onsite not only saves money and time, it helps the environment, he said.

“Saving in money, saving in energy, cost, fuel and, of course, the impact on the environment, the CO₂ emissions, the global warming and climate change and everything else,” Kaloush said.

ADOT replaced the westbound lanes last year. Construction on the eastbound lanes is expected to wrap up in the fall.

– Video by Bayne Froney/Cronkite News

Study: Arizona has Longest Clean Water Permit Wait Times in Southwest

PHOENIX — Receiving a decision on a construction permit under section 404 of the Clean Water Act takes longer in Arizona than in any other Southwestern state, a new study found.

Before construction can begin on almost anything — from a highway to a housing development — companies and states have to receive a 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It’s a provision under the Clean Water Act to track what contaminants are ending up in America’s waterways in what amounts.

The University of California study looked at 404 permits for projects submitted in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas and Utah.

“I would have expected California would have been the slowest state because California has a lot more environmental regulations,” said researcher Nícola Ulibarrí.

However a project in Arizona takes about 67 percent longer to receive a permit decision from the Army Corps of Engineers, who processes the permit before it’s approved or declined by the EPA.

Ulibarrí said the difference was a mystery even though her study accounted for type of project, population density and income.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is aware of the study but does not comment on studies where USACE has not been involved in the study process,” said a spokesperson in an email.

Ulibarrí said that, while regulations are important to protect human health and the environment, long wait times increase costs for businesses and taxpayers.

“If they are driving on roads or are drinking water or are buying into a new housing development, all of those things take 404 permits, so if it takes longer to permit the process, then that’s going to drive up the overall cost of the project,” she said.

There are changes coming to the system. In 2017, the Arizona state legislature passed a bill that would transfer permitting from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

AZDEQ is currently conducting stakeholder meetings and expects to submit their full implementation plan to the EPA by May of 2020.