Final stretch of Loop 303 set to open - East Valley Tribune: West Valley

Final stretch of Loop 303 set to open

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Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011 4:45 pm | Updated: 6:02 pm, Fri Apr 29, 2011.

Motorists in the Northwest Valley will soon have a major new option for traveling as the Arizona Department of Transportation prepares to open the final stretch of Loop 303.

Sometime during the week of May 9, the barriers will be lifted and the stretch of Loop 303 from Happy Valley Parkway to I-17 will be open to traffic, providing a continuous commute for motorists on Loop 303 from I-10 northbound to I-17. Those who wish to see the newly completed freeway early can do so on May 7 at a ribbon-cutting ceremony where attendees will be allowed to walk around and see everything up close.

“They can walk it; they can bike it; they can rollerblade,” said Tim Tait, ADOT’s assistant communications director. “They can do everything but chip away a piece of pavement for a souvenir.”

Work began on the Loop 303 project in 2006. This latest stretch of freeway is 10.5 miles-long with nine bridge structures and 3,900 plants salvaged and replanted along the project. After the freeway opens in two weeks, project manager Mark Wheeler said for all intents and purposes it will be a finished freeway.

“The freeway is designed to accommodate future traffic interchanges at Jomax, Westland Drive and 96th Avenue, for example,” he said. “And far off in the future, if need be, the freeway can be widened with additional lanes built inward. That all depends on traffic demands.”

Wheeler said he expects the new stretch of freeway to be busy right away.

“I think for sure you’ll see a lot of heavy haul vehicles use it right away,” he said. “They’ll want to avoid the middle of town.”

The next phase for the Loop 303 as a whole will comprise the stretch from Grand Avenue south to the I-10.

“We’ll be upgrading that from the two-lane road it is now to the full-fledged freeway like we have up in this section,” Tait said. “Anyone who has driven that stretch from Grand Avenue to Bell Road can see it is dug out and ready to be expanded.”

Sandy Esmay, marketing director for the Vistancia community in north Peoria, said the new stretch of freeway is of great significance to their community.

“It provides another way into the community for our residents,” she said. “But it’s also hugely important from an economic development perspective. Being connected to a major freeway will mean more opportunities for regional employment, for retail, for medical. A variety of possibilities. It’s big not just for Vistancia or Peoria, but the whole region.”

Tait said the new stretch of freeway will open the week of May 9, though he declined to say it would be open that Monday.

“We typically don’t announce a specific date for new road openings,” he said. “Because when we do that, we end up with a line of cars waiting for us to open it up.”

The new lanes of Loop 303, built in two side-by-side projects at a cost of $170 million, are funded through MAG’s 20-year Regional Transportation Plan. Construction began in February 2009. Primary funding for the projects comes from Proposition 400’s half-cent sales tax approved by Maricopa County voters in 2004.

Jeff Dempsey may be reached at 623-876-2531 or jdempsey@yourwestvalley.com.

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