plans should please community, Pinal County
the Arizona Department of Transportation makes its recommendations on future
freeway corridors to the State Transportation Board in December, the news is
likely to be good for Gold Canyon and northern Pinal County.
• A freeway that will connect Apache Junction with communities to the south. One possible alignment would have the freeway connecting to Arizona 79 just north of Florence. An alternative proposal would connect it to Arizona 287 between Coolidge and Florence.
• A second new freeway that would connect the Apache Junction-Florence/Coolidge freeway with U.S. 60 at Florence Junction.
"It looks like we are going to get 150 percent of what we wanted," said Pinal County Supervisor Sandie Smith. "The key is to get the rerouting of U.S. 60 around Gold Canyon moving forward. It's Number 1 on everybody's list."
Deputy Pinal County Manager Terry Doolittle said the county was hopeful that the rerouting of U.S. 60 could be accomplished much sooner than the 20 to 30 years originally envisioned.
Doolittle said if the State Transportation Board hears ADOT staff reports on the U.S. 60 rerouting at its December meeting, it would be three years ahead of the deadline set by the state law.
He said the next step includes engineering and environmental studies. Meanwhile, the county is among project supporters asking the state to include funding for the project in the 2003 ADOT budget request.
Buskirk stressed that none of the recommendations is final.
"We've been meeting one-on-one with all of the stakeholders, the state, the various communities and Pinal County. We are about halfway through the process, and it looks like we're on track for a December recommendation, but changes are still possible," he said.
Another key component of the proposal, he said, was upgrading of existing local roads, including Arizona 79, 87, 187, 287, 387 and 587. Smith said she was encouraged that ADOT listened to Pinal County's protests that preliminary draft recommendations seriously underestimated the future population of northern Pinal County.
Shannon Wilhelmsen, ADOT communications and community partnerships director, said ADOT was no longer holding to the population projections used in making the preliminary recommendations and instead would be making recommendations on what roads the area would need when the area is built out.
"We need to have a map right now that shows what roads will be needed at build out," Wilhelmsen said. "Whether it takes five years or 500 years to get to build out, we need to know. After that it's up to the State Land Department and the developers."
Smith praised ADOT for its willingness to listen.
"The ADOT board and staff have been open and outgoing in our discussions," she said.
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