By Paul Maryniak for East Valley Tribune
East Valley motorists in the coming years will reap a significant part of a billion-dollar windfall that will jump-start upgrades on several key highways in the region.
That forecast to the Chandler Chamber of Commerce came recently from Bob Hazlett, senior engineering manager for the Maricopa Association of Governments.
Some major projects include:
- Extending the third and HOV lanes on U.S. 60 out to Apache Junction;
- Widening by one lane in each direction the Loop 101 Price Freeway between the U.S. 60 and Santan Freeway;
- Widening portions of the Loop 202 Santan and Red Mountain freeways;
- Adding an interchange at the Santan Freeway and Lindsay Road;
- Extending SR 24 from Ellsworth Road to Ironwood Road;
- Widening I-10 around the Broadway Curve and making other improvements along I-10 between Pecos Road and the I-17 split.
The timetable for these and nine other projects was accelerated – and may be moved up again next month – as a result of an unexpected surplus that gave MAG an extra $1.8B for projects over the next 10 years for a total $5.02B.
Of that, $1.77B will go to the South Mountain Freeway, the most expensive highway project Arizona has ever undertaken.
Another $1.25B is funding the accelerated projects in the East Valley and other parts of the metropolitan area, particularly the West Valley.
Hazlett said projections made in 2012 basically were off by $1.8B. That’s partially because revenue from taxes, mainly the levy on gasoline, turned out 55 percent over the original estimate.
Additionally, he said, savings have been achieved by the Arizona Department of Transportation’s adoption of a “cost-risk analysis” of proposed projects that helps highway planners get a better idea of the most effective approaches to problem areas.
Hazlett said various economic development projects in Chandler warrant the Price Freeway upgrade, while the Lindsay Road interchange at the Santan Freeway is in response to the massive Rivulon mixed-use development in Gilbert.
For Southeast Valley motorists, the improvements will sweep across the region from I-10 and into western Pinal County.
By far the most ambitious project, however, involves the Broadway Curve and the entire length of the I-10 between Pecos Road and the I-17 split – a segment that MAG and the Arizona Department of Transportation call “The Spine” because it handles 40 percent of all Valley traffic daily.
It could also be called “the headache” by East Valley commuters whose commute to downtown Phoenix involves I-10 from the U.S. 60 or the Santan Freeway.
At one time not too long ago, there had been plans to expand the I-10 to 25 lanes and the I-17 to 16 around the Broadway Curve, Hazlett said.
“As you can imagine, if we widened it that much, we’d be wiping out a lot of homes and a lot of businesses,” he added. “We started asking, do we really need that capacity?”
The result of that question is a “more holistic, comprehensive look” at I-10 that will involve a few extra lanes, but a relocation of interchanges connecting the U.S. 60 and State Route 143 so that it can eliminate the dangerous cross-overs that traffic now makes in that area.
Read more at East Valley Tribune.
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