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Public Construction Boom Defining Mesa’s Future

By Gary Nelson for The Arizona Republic

From one end to the other — and at many points in between — Mesa is enjoying a construction boom that will help define how the city looks and functions for decades.

The projects will consume well over half a billion dollars in public money.

They will shape how we travel by planes, trains and automobiles.

The funds are coming from various pots of money. Mesa is paying for a lot of it. County, state and federal governments are chipping in, too.

Mesa’s chief engineer, Beth Huning, whose staff supervises the design and bidding for many of the projects, said contractors have told her Mesa has more public construction going on right now than any city in the Valley.

Here are some of the major projects under way or soon to be launched:

CUBS COMPLEX

Cubs Stadium Construction Site

Mesa’s spending is divided into an $84M fund for baseball facilities, and $15M for related infrastructure. The infrastructure fund will cover the first phase of renovations at Riverview Park, just east of the stadium complex.

If the Cubs want a fancier stadium than $84M can provide, they’ll pay for the extras.

And if Mesa residents want a fancier version of the park, they can supply money by voting in November for a $70M bond issue covering that and other park projects across the city.

LIGHT RAIL

Early work is under way on extending light rail from Sycamore Street through downtown to just east of Mesa Drive.

The 3.1 miles of tracks, four new stations and related infrastructure will cost about $200M.

Mesa is paying only for staff time necessary for public outreach and other coordination efforts.

POLICE STATION

Mesa Police Station Site

Mesa voters in 2008 approved spending $15M for a Fiesta District police station to replace an obsolete one on South Dobson Road.

Savings on the land purchase and construction costs in a down economy mean the project, to be completed in about a year, will come in at about $10.2M.

Also in public safety, Fire Station 220 will be completed in September at Main and 58th streets. The station, built partly with city bonds and partly with federal stimulus money, cost $4.3M.

COLLEGE CAMPUSES

Mesa is using its business-enterprise fund to remodel three city-owned downtown buildings for the four schools that have agreed this year to set up branch campuses there.

Work at 225 E. Main St. will cost about $10M, and remodeling 51-55 E. Main St. will cost about $500,000. An estimate for the former city courthouse at 245 W. Second St. is in the works.

ASU has already opened new residence and dining halls at Poly, in the city’s southeastern corner. Work continues on a $26.5M student fitness center, which will be finished in January and is funded by student fees.

MCC broke ground this month for a performing-arts center in an old Harkins movieplex, one of several projects that will total $41.4M on its main campus at Southern Avenue and Dobson Road.

AIRPORT TERMINAL

Airport Terminal

Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, which is adding new carriers and destinations at a dizzying pace, is wrapping up its fourth terminal expansion since 2008.

The modernistic $10M building, funded by federal money, is to open early this fall.

The feds also have promised $6.1M for the final phase of terminal expansion on the airport’s west side, which will bring the airport to 10 gates by fall 2013.

After that, the next time Gateway builds a terminal it will be to the east, along Ellsworth Road.

GATEWAY FREEWAY

What could be Mesa’s last freeway is under construction in the city’s southeastern corner.

Arizona 24, also known as the Gateway Freeway, will stretch someday from Loop 202 into Pinal County.

But Mesa thinks the first mile, to Ellsworth Road, is the most important because it will funnel traffic almost to the front door of Gateway Airport’s future east-side terminal.

But Mesa sped up the work and saved on future construction costs by issuing nearly $123M in bonds for construction and to buy the land.

Completion of the first mile is expected late next year. No money has been identified for future extensions.

BIG STREET PROJECTS

Work is either planned or under way on:

An $11.8M, bond-funded streetscape project aimed at elevating the struggling Fiesta District.

A $34.4M makeover of Power Road near the Gateway airport, the costs shared by Mesa bonds and money from Gilbert and Maricopa County.

Southern Ave

A nearly $26M reconstruction and beautification of Mesa Drive north of U.S. 60, and Southern Avenue a half-mile in both directions from Mesa Drive. Mesa is paying $10.5M in bond money; the regional transportation sales tax covers almost all the rest, with a small contribution from the state.

A $7.5M overhaul of the Dobson Road-University Drive intersection.

A $19.5M reconstruction of Broadway Road between Hawes and Power roads.

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