Combs Construction Company Inc. of Phoenix won two national Associated General Contractors’ awards for construction and partnering excellence for its improvements to State Route 86, east of Sells on the Tohono O’odham Nation in Pima County.

The awards, which were announced during the association’s annual convention in San Antonio, are considered by many to be the most prestigious recognition of construction accomplishments in the U.S.

The Arizona Department of Transportation selected Combs as the contractor to widen inadequate shoulders on the two-lane undivided roadway between mileposts 115.75 and 120.60, replace pavement, add left-turn lanes at three intersections, extend seven major and six minor drainage structures and adjust elevation on two curves.

Combs won the Alliant Build America Award in the category of Highway and Transportation Renovation under $10 million. In its report on construction innovations and lessons from the award winners, AGC recognized Combs’ innovation before construction.

“Combs recognized early on that working around the clock” to complete each pair of 14 box culverts in a 72-hour period ‘would be dangerous,’” the report said.

“Combs recommended a value-engineering change to convert the planned multiphase SR 86 project into a single phase, saving time and money. The company came up with a plan to place 1,900 feet of concrete barriers around the ends of the culverts, so work could progress during the day. Not only did it make the job safer, it saved about $150,000 on a $7.7 million job.”

Combs also won a Build America Merit Award for Partnering Excellence.

“Formal partnering also propelled Combs Construction Company’s project to the winner’s circle,” AGC said in the report. Combs partnered with ADOT on the project, but also worked with the Tohono O’odham Nation to address several project challenges.

“After starting work on the project, Combs discovered it would need 9,400 cubic yards of fill, rather than the 8 cubic yards predicted in the design. The nearest material supplier was 80 miles and 1.5 hours away.

Hauling that much material from the contracted supplier would be costly. Combs located enough material left over from a previous project 22 miles east. But the material had previously been given to the Tohono O’odham Nation, and it had a lot of oversized rocks in it, precluding it from use on this project as it was.

“Material sample testing revealed the soil would be suitable if it could be screened and the large rock removed. Coincidentally, the nation needed riprap rock to use on flood-abatement projects. A cost estimate to bring in mobile equipment to screen out the large rock and haul the material to the project proved to be significantly cheaper than getting material from the existing far-away material source.

“ ‘We had to work out a deal with the tribe,’ Combs’ CEO Jim Combs said. ‘It was a win-win,’ ” the report noted.

Combs worked with the tribe to arrange the relocation of 11 roadside memorials of individuals who had died in vehicle crashes on the highway, and showed cultural respect and sensitivity in other ways.

“Tribal and federal monitors watched the excavation, which took place on potential burial grounds,” the AGC report said. “Combs also dug up the prickly pear cacti from the right of way and stockpiled trees taken down and gave all of them to the tribe.

“Everyone worked together, and it was an unbelievable job,” Combs said.

Combs Construction Company provides unparalleled paving and construction services within Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma. Started by Jim Combs in 1993, the company serves as a general contractor and subcontractor to city, state, county and tribal governments, land developers and contractors.

The company participates in bids for public projects up to $100 million as a joint venture partner and has successfully completed single projects up to $12 million.

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) is the leading association for the construction industry. AGC represents more than 26,000 firms, including over 6,500 of America’s leading general contractors, and over 9,000 specialty-contracting firms. More than 10,500 service providers and suppliers are also associated with AGC, all through a nationwide network of chapters.