Drivers anxious for a new freeway in the far East Valley can get a glimpse Tuesday of plans for the proposed state Route 802.
The Arizona Department of Transportation will share an environmental study of the freeway, which includes a proposed alignment of a freeway that begins near Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.
Tuesday’s meeting in Queen Creek comes as ADOT is collecting comments on the freeway before getting federal approval next year.
“It gives people who are interested in the project an opportunity to interact with project team members while also offering input,” ADOT spokesman Doug Nintzel said.
Mesa is so eager to get the freeway open that it plans to spend $5.6 million to advance construction by four years. Under that plan, work would begin in 2012 and the highway’s first segment would open in 2016.
The earlier construction would likely cut the freeway’s cost by $39 million because the recession has driven down prices so much.
The freeway is projected to cost $158 million if built under the original 2016 plan, but it would cost $119 million if built four years earlier.
Mesa also loaned money to speed up construction on the Red Mountain Freeway stretch of Loop 202, which has triggered economic development, Councilman Scott Somers said.
“With the success of that, we expect to see the same kind of interest along the 802,” Somers said.
Much of the area is set aside for commercial and industrial development. Mesa figures the area will eventually become one of the largest employment centers in the Valley, with 100,000 jobs.
The freeway will help the booming Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport grow, Somers said. He added the airport is a big draw to many businesses and developers.
“The better freeway access, the more interest we have from high-wage employers,” Somers said.
ADOT plans Route 802 will eventually stretch into Pinal County and intersect with U.S. 60 at a point yet to be determined. For now, its east-west path is tentatively established only to the Maricopa-Pinal county boundary.
The first stretch to open will span just 1.5 miles, ending at Ellsworth Road. But that’s a key segment because it includes the interchange with the Santan Freeway stretch of Loop 202.
The Ellsworth interchange will speed up commute times for many commuters, as well.
“That’s going to help a lot with the traffic flow out of Queen Creek and the San Tan Valley area,” Somers said.
Should the federal government approve the freeway next year, it will get a new identity. ADOT’s 802 designation came from state planners, but the Maricopa Association of Governments determined its name as Route 24. The switch should occur next year.