Freeway bottlenecks top MAG transit priorities - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Freeway bottlenecks top MAG transit priorities

April 11th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Freeway bottlenecks top MAG transit priorities

By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

Addressing bottlenecks on the Santan and Loop 101 freeways and adding two rapid bus routes are among the transportation priorities in Chandler for county officials.

Audra Koester Thomas, the transportation planning program manager for the Maricopa Association of Governments, said every project on its list is important, but that expanding the number of lanes on the Santan Loop 202 Freeway between the Loop 101 and I-10 as the most important.

Two rapid-bus routes are planned. One would go up Arizona Avenue through the heart of downtown Chandler to Mesa and a light rail transit center and the other between Scottsdale Fashion Square and Chandler Fashion Center.

She and other officials briefed business leaders on the region’s transportation plan at a Chandler Chamber of Commerce event.

“The purpose of the route is more about connecting Chandler, Scottsdale and Tempe residents with downtown Tempe/ASU and downtown Scottsdale, along with a connection to either mall at the north/south end and the Chandler Fashion Center,” said Jason Crampton. “Additionally, the route will provide a faster connection to light rail and other regional bus lines in the area.”

That route would travel mostly on Rural and Scottsdale roads.

Another high priority is addressing the rush-hour bottleneck on the Loop 101 between U.S. 60 and the Red Mountain Freeway.

A key to addressing all those priorities is voters passing an extension to Prop. 400, a half-cent sales tax dedicated to addressing the region’s transportation needs. It will likely be included on this year’s ballot in November, although at this newspaper’s deadline, both chambers in the Legislature were considering a bill to put the tax on renewal on this year’s ballot. The current tax expires in 2025.

Thomas said a lot of infrastructure has been built in East Valley since the 1980s and it has helped fuel the growth of Chandler to being Arizona’s fourth largest city.

“That half-cent sales tax is what delivered this network that you see here,” Thomas said, saying there are other projects in the works that will impact Chandler commuters.

“Finishing up the HOV lane, here out east of Chandler, around the Santan, so completing that freeway network,” she said. “Build out of the SR 24 (Gateway Freeway)  and the southeast network.”

The Arizona Department of Transportation two weeks ago opened another four-lane stretch of SR 24 to help access Bell Bank Park in Mesa as well as some residential areas.

The mile-long section is an interim four-lane roadway between Ellsworth and Williams Field roads and was completed several months ahead of schedule as part of a partnership between ADOT, Mesa and Legacy Sports USA, which operates Bell Bank Park. The new sports and entertainment complex is southeast of the new intersection connecting SR 24 and Williams Field Road.

Drivers are now able to access the eastbound side of the new SR 24 section via ramps from the Santan Freeway. Access from Ellsworth Road will be available by next week when crews open new on- and off-ramps on the east side of the SR 24/Ellsworth interchange.

The new section is part of ADOT’s  $77 million project to build SR 24 as a divided four-lane roadway between Ellsworth Road in Mesa and Ironwood Drive in Pinal County. The entire five-mile-long project is scheduled for completion later this year.

Thomas said there’s not a lot more that can be done for U.S. 60 because the freeway’s footprint is maxed out. However, she said they will look at it to see if there are things that can be done to improve the flow of traffic.

MAG officials asked community leaders for their transit wish list for the coming decades. The estimated cost for all of those more than 1,400 projects is $90 billion. They have worked up a plan that will be able to meet the region’s transportation needs through 2050 if voters approve the half-cent sales tax for another 25 years.

That $36 billion plan includes:

• 367 new freeway/highway miles;

• 186 new HOV lane miles;

• 1,300 new or improved arterial lane miles;

• 45 new or improved traffic interchanges;

• 12 new dedicated HOV lanes or system interchange DHOV ramps;

• Nearly 12 miles of new light rail;

• Nearly 37 miles of bus rapid transit;

• Nearly 7 miles of new streetcar tracks;

Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke said there have been more than 400 completed transportation projects done in Chandler because of the half-cent sales tax.

“All corners of our city have benefited from Prop. 400 funding,” Hartke said. “With the north and west Chandler getting the majority of Chandler’s bus services, while arterial funding in the Southeast Chandler, allowing the city to bring all of the streets up to modern standards, and accommodate the traffic demands in the growing parts of our city.”