The City of Chandler completed its extensive Germann Road reconstruction project well under budget and ahead of schedule, thanks to innovative contracting and engineering practices. Photo: Jim Phipps

Rapid expansion is common to American cities. For Chandler, Ariz., population growth and development is especially challenging. The city enjoys the distinction of being rated the seventh fastest growing city of all U.S. municipalities with populations exceeding 100,000. Over the past 10 years, Chandler's population (currently at 237,632) has jumped by an average of 1000 new residents every month.

“There is a constant need to expand all the city's infrastructure,” said Bryan Patterson, public works director.

Keeping tabs on the ever-changing demands on Chandler's infrastructure required innovative thinking. In 2001, the city split its public works department into two separate agencies: transportation and engineering responsibilities fell to the public works staff, while all utility operations were given to the newly formed municipal utilities department.

“This organizational change has resulted in a more focused and customer-driven approach to our growth challenges,” said mayor Boyd W. Dunn. Although Chandler has split its public works functions into two departments, personnel still work together very closely.

“The staff is always looking for innovative methods to streamline processes and work more efficiently,” said Patterson. “Each team member is assigned to assist one or more specific city departments, so there is a close and continuing working relationship between engineering and the operating departments.”

The city's teamwork philosophy extends from its day-to-day operations into projects both large and small. One of the biggest projects completed within the past year involved reconstruction of Germann Road. The plan called for relocating and rebuilding 1½ miles of a two-lane, rural county road to provide a six-lane urban arterial roadway along the perimeter of the Chandler Municipal Airport. It also included several miles of water mains, reclaimed water lines, and sewer interceptors. Adding to the challenge was a commercial development agreement that allowed only two years to complete all design, right of way acquisition, utility relocation, and construction.

The city employed a construction manager-at-risk contract to help manage costs on the reconstruction project by establishing a guaranteed maximum price. Work ended one month ahead of schedule and under budget by $3 million, with only one change order and no claims throughout the process.