Construction on interim 5-mile Gateway Freeway to begin in 2020

Area residents hope it will relieve ‘horrible traffic in the area’

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Video by Richard H. Dyer
Arizona Department of Transportation officials were at tables at the open house to discuss various aspects of the interim State Route 24 project.

Work on an interim State Route 24 Gateway Freeway north of the Town of Queen Creek, for two lanes in each direction between Ellsworth Road and Ironwood Drive, is to begin in fall 2020.

Queen Creek residents Judy Gains and Evelyn Rosciszewski say drivers need relief from the daily traffic congestion on the two north-south entryways into the town.

“We live across from each other in Queen Creek and traffic is... Luckily we’re retired and we don’t have to be at a lot of places at specific times, but when we do, it’s awkward. Traffic is bad,” Ms. Rosciszewski said. “I think it will help, but I don’t think it’s a miracle,” she said of the interim State Route 24 plan.

She and Ms. Gains attended a recent neighborhood meeting on the project hosted by the Arizona Department of Transportation.

“Because of this horrible traffic in the area --- just the general Queen Creek traffic, getting in and out of Queen Creek,” Ms. Gains said of why she attended the meeting.

State Route 24

The 2011 design concept report for the then-named Williams Gateway Freeway or State Route 802 called for a high-capacity freeway corridor to provide access between the regional freeway system and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, between the Santan Freeway Loop 202 and Ironwood Drive.

The initial plan called for four general-purpose lanes in each direction of travel from Loop 202 to Williams Field Road and three general-purpose lanes in each direction of travel between Williams Field Road and Ironwood Drive, according to the 402-page report at azdot.gov/sr24.

Phase I of State Route 24 opened in 2014 from the Loop 202 Santan Freeway to Ellsworth Road.

Now, ADOT, in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration, is designing a 5-mile interim phase II section, with construction anticipated to begin in Fall 2020.

“Current and projected development in the area ... is growing much faster than I think any of us expected back in 2011 when we initially began design and the environmental assessment of the State Route (24),” Bill Fathauer, ADOT community relations project manager, said during a presentation at an open-house-style meeting at Eastmark High School in Mesa.

“We didn’t expect the growth to be nearly as much as it is now and it’s projected to be even more extensive than anyone had expected years ago, so the increased growth in eastern Maricopa County and western Pinal County necessitated a more-immediate need for a corridor through this area,” he said.

“You’re going to hear this project referred to as the ‘interim phase II.’ That is what we are able to design and build now with the funding that is available to us,” he said.
Interim phase II has $93 million for right-of-way acquisition and $167 million for design and construction, he said.

“Why are we building this interim facility? We’re building it to provide a transportation corridor that supports current and suspected traffic demands and improves connectivity in the region prior to an anticipated ultimate build-out of State Route 24,” he said.

The interim roadway will preserve the access control plan for the corridor outlined in the 2011 design concept report and be built at- or above-grade throughout, according to ADOT’s website.

Features of the interim project include:

• Two paved lanes in each direction separated by a graded median.

• At-grade intersections at the following locations: Williams Field Road, Signal Butte Road, Meridian Road and Ironwood Drive.

• Bridges over Ellsworth and Mountain roads.

• A drainage channel along the north side of the freeway.

• Signage, traffic signals, lighting and pavement marking, as necessary.

• Bridges in each direction over Ellsworth Road.

• A new drainage channel along the north side will discharge into Flood Control District of Maricopa County facilities.

There are to be traffic restrictions for several months at Ellsworth Road during roadway and bridge construction, ADOT officials said.

Other construction-related impacts include:

• Lane closures at Mountain Road.

• Detours planned on Williams Field Road, 222nd Street and Pecos Road.

• Lane restrictions and traffic shifts for several months at Ironwood Drive during phased construction.

Future plans for SR24

The interim phase II freeway will be easily modified from two lanes to three lanes in the future with a high-occupancy-vehicle lane, Mr. Fathauer said.

“The roadway --- the two lanes in each direction -- have a wide median currently between them. With the ultimate build-out of the roadway, when funding becomes available, we will widen the roadway into the median. So rather than two lanes in each direction, there’ll be three lanes in each direction and an HOV lane and an auxiliary lane for entering and exiting the roadway,” he said.

At-grade intersections constructed in interim phase II will be changed to above-grade intersections at the ultimate build-out, he said.

“So the freeway will go over those roadways like they do at Ellsworth and at Mountain” in the interim phase II, Mr. Fathauer said.

Three Mesa owners of property near State Route 24 attended the meeting to learn about ADOT’s plans.

“We own land that’s being impacted by this freeway,” landowner Reece Bawden said.

One property is south of Pecos Road to Germann, just east of the CMC Steel plant, he said.

“We own all of that frontage there,” Mr. Bawden said. “We’re the three landowners that own about 3,000 linear feet along Meridian Road south of the freeway.”

They also own 30 acres on each side of Signal Butte Road at Pecos Road.

“We think they’re under-building it from the get-go. It’s going to be obsolete when they finish it because I don’t think they understand how fast this community is growing,” land owner David Jarvis said.

The Signal Butte and Meridian road bridges should be built in this phase, he said.

“We’re excited for all of the development and construction,” landowner Ken Smith said.

“We’re glad they’re doing what they’re doing, but we wish they could have found more money to get it right from the get-go,” Mr. Bawden said.

SR24, State Route 24

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