Development

Surprise projects remain on track

Transportation, fire stations, other facilities beating timeline

Posted 9/15/20

COVID-19 may have put the breaks on much of life this year, but it hasn’t affected the progress of various Surprise projects voters agreed to a few years ago.

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Development

Surprise projects remain on track

Transportation, fire stations, other facilities beating timeline

Posted

COVID-19 may have put the breaks on much of life this year, but it hasn’t affected the progress of various Surprise projects voters agreed to a few years ago.

Two major street projects are done, a fire station has been built and miles of roads have been resurfaced, all thanks to $59.5 million in general obligation bonds voters approved in 2017.

“I’m really saddened we can’t do a big celebration like we used to,” District 1 Councilman Roland Winters said. “We’ve just got to get rid of the virus, and we’ll be OK.”

The 2017 bond package featured three components — public safety, traffic projects and pavement preservation.

About $34 million went to various public safety projects, including the upcoming Public Safety Evidence and Readiness Center, a permanent Fire Station 304 in the north part of Surprise and the new Fire Station 308 at Litchfield and Cactus roads.

About $15.5 million of the bond was targeted toward three major traffic projects, two of which are finished ahead of schedule, and the rest of the money went toward repaving roads across the city.

The Surprise City Council Sept. 1 approved the second bond issuance for $19.5 million. The first $40 million was issued in May 2018.

Here’s a look at how the money has been spent so far.

Facilities update

Fire Station 304, 24900 N. 163rd Ave., and a new Public Works Operational Facility, next to the SPA1 South Water Reclamation Facility at Litchfield and Cactus, are complete.

City officials said the need for a permanent building for 304 comes as 2,800 residents are expected to move into the city’s northern area through several housing developments in the works.

Team members moved into the 44,000-square-foot Public Works facility in March. It’s on 14 acres of the water plant’s land and will go next to the soon-to-be-built Fire Station 308.

Ground is expected to be broken in late November for that fire station with a completion expected in spring 2022. The facility’s design is about 60% completed. 

Construction is expected to begin soon on the 29,000-square-foot Public Safety Evidence and Readiness Center at 134th Avenue and Foxfire Drive. It will be shared by both the police and fire-medical departments when it opens next spring. City officials said the current facility on Litchfield Road, north of Bell Road is at 85% to 90% storage capacity.

Work on the new facility will be done at the same time as the adjacent Police Training Center to the north.

The city also is in negotiations with landowners near Citrus Road and Sweetwater Avenue for a potential future fire and police station, as well as park space.

Traffic plans

For the $15.5 million that went to traffic congestion mitigation in the 2017 bond, two of the three projects are complete.

The widening of Litchfield between Waddell Road and Peoria Avenue and the massive improvements to Waddell between Loop 303 and Reems Road were finished last month ahead of time.

The Waddell improvement was key with the long-awaited opening of Costco Sept. 24.

The next big project is widening Greenway Road between Cotton Lane and Sarival Avenue.

Project permits are anticipated within the next couple weeks, and plans are under their final review. The city is working on easements and rights-of-way, which the Council would have to approve.

Construction is expected to start this fall and wrap up in the spring, although city staff isn’t yet sure if the road will have full or partial closures during the work.

The city is relocating some irrigation ditches, and Arizona Public Service Co. is working on some lines in the area to get it ready.

A traffic signal also is panned for Greenway and Northwest Ranch Parkway.

Wish list

In the overall city picture, officials are looking to bridge what they call “roadway gaps” across Surprise.

City officials listed 85 separate projects considered priorities in a submission to the Maricopa Association of Governments.

The top ones included an interchange at Loop 303 and Litchfield in the north part of the city.

The project design is about 15% complete, but the city recently applied for a federal Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, grant to complete the design process.

That would help connect the communities of Rancho Mercada, Tierra Verde, Sun Haven and Sunrise Ranch with the freeway.

Widening 163rd Avenue in the north and widening Peoria Avenue to the south also are considered top priorities for Surprise traffic officials.

Among the other projects the city detailed to MAG include improvements along other stretches of Cactus, Cotton, Waddell and Happy Valley and Deer Valley roads.

District 4 Councilman Ken Remley is pushing for a signal at Cactus and Citrus Lane in southwest Surprise.

“We’re talking about public safety,” Mr. Remley said. “We’re talking about our residents. We’re talking about 5,000 homes and approximately 15,000 people, who are having to stop at a stop sign when it should have a signal light. And the excuse is, ‘Oh, somebody else hasn’t paid for it yet.’ We know there’s going to be development there, and it ain’t going to be that long.”

Public Works Director Mike Gent told Mr. Remley he was “preaching to the choir.” 

“That’s absolutely one of our higher priority intersections,” Mr. Gent told Mr. Remley.

Greenway also needs widening on its north half west of Cotton. It’s a candidate for a future capital improvement project.

With Costco sparking other businesses’ interests in the area, Surprise officials are considering future upgrades to Sarival Avenue between Waddell and Cactus.

Surprise Assistant Public Works Director Kristin Tytler said that could be part of a future general obligation bond vote for residents.

Back in the north part, she said residents could expect a full extension of Happy Valley Road by 2021.

Plus, city officials are in talks with BNSF Railway to secure access to Grand Avenue from Lone Mountain Road. That project is in the design phase.

“That’s another way for people to leave this area,” Mayor Skip Hall said.

Other improvements

Work on the new Gaines Park baseball field in the Original Town Site is expected to start in a couple of weeks.

A federal community development block grant is paying for the construction, which is expected to last until late spring. The park will have lighting, seating and parking.

Flashing arrows will soon be part of the intersection at Litchfield and Bell roads. The city is rewiring equipment and installing new poles through the end of the month.

“This is the intersection with the highest accident rate in the city, and we thought it was really important to do some modifications to improve the safety in here,” Ms. Tytler said.

The MAG Roadway Safety Improvement program is paying for the improvements, which cost about $344,000.

Kingswood Parke is the home of 25 new streetlights. Ms. Tytler said the city saved about $160,000 on what was set aside for the lights.

The bond also included $10 million for various pavement preservation projects across the city.

Editor’s Note: Jason Stone can be reached at jstone@newszap.com.

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