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Surprise Council OKs Grand Ave. Overpass

Photo credit: Michael Schennum/The Arizona Republic

By David Madrid for The Arizona Republic

A Surprise City Council vote to kill a long-planned overpass on Bell Road over Grand Avenue failed Oct. 20.

The council voted 5-2 against killing the $52M overpass. Council members Skip Hall and Rachel Villanueva voted to stop the project.

Although the project has been in the works since 2003, Hall sought to stop the overpass after a study by economic consultant firm Applied Economics showed a potential $50M in taxable sales losses due to the closure of Bell Road for six months. Construction would continue for up to a year.

The study concerned Hall, because it shows the construction project could result in the loss of business, the closure of some small businesses, a temporary loss of up to 1,100 jobs and losses of $1.1M in city sales-tax revenue.

The study also showed, and nearby property owners complained about, significant damage to the city’s top economic generators abutting the intersection, Surprise Marketplace and Surprise Towne Center. Both centers combined have almost 1MSF of retail space.

Overpass construction would shut down Bell Road from Litchfield Road to Dysart Road for at least six months. During the closure, Bell Road traffic would be diverted away from the business centers south on either Dysart or Litchfield roads to Greenway Road. It would be a three-mile detour to get back onto Bell Road.

The Maricopa Association of Governments and the Arizona Department of Transportation gave presentations to the council showing the need for the overpass to handle traffic growth in 2035. Retail businesses in the centers include Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart and numerous smaller businesses and bars and restaurants, including Red Lobster, Olive Garden and IHOP.

Eric Anderson, MAG transportation director, told the council he believes the Applied Economics study missed crucial information. He questioned the report’s assumptions of business losses.

The study showed about a 35 percent decline in the sales in the big-box/automotive-industry category, with another 31 percent in the restaurant/bar category.

Anderson said the study neglected to include traffic analysis of where customers are coming from.

The council also discussed whether it should go with a $2.8 million artistic overpass design, which has already cost the city about $70,000, or an ADOT design that costs the city nothing. Although the council will vote on which design it prefers, most of the council indicated they preferred the ADOT design because it costs the city nothing.

Read more at The Arizona Republic

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