Motorists heading east on U.S. 60 to attend the Safeway International LPGA Tournament this weekend can expect a flawless drive toward the event’s Gold Canyon venue, but they would be wise to take a few doglegs on the way home.
With two popular events happening in the far East Valley this Saturday and Sunday — the LPGA tournament at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club and The Arizona Renaissance Festival a few miles east — state transportation officials have cancelled plans to restrict traffic through a section of eastbound U.S. 60 in Mesa from Greenfield Road to Superstition Springs Boulevard for rubberized asphalt paving.
The roadwork restriction was delayed at the request of both events’ promoters, who feared squeezing as many as 20,000 incoming vehicles through a two-lane bottleneck would lead to frustrated fans on the fairgrounds and fairways.
“If they’re sitting in traffic missing the golf, that’s obviously not going to create the most positive experience possible,” LPGA tournament executive director Rob Neal said.
But the Arizona Department of Transportation offered the promoters a compromise, rather than accepting their invitation to take the weekend off.
Instead, ADOT plans to repave the freeway’s westbound side, which would merely shift traffic delays to the tail end of the day. In addition to narrowing U.S. 60 to two lanes at the Mesa location, the department also plans to restrict the westbound freeway to one lane between Priest Drive and the Interstate 10 interchange in Tempe.
However, as of late Tuesday, officials said the extent of the closure is still subject to change.
“I think everyone would love to have more lanes open both coming and going,” Neal said.
Still, both Neal and Renaissance Fair promoter Jeff Siegel said the westbound restrictions are preferable and commended transportation planners for listening to their concerns and meeting them halfway.
“I think ADOT’s been great, actually,” Siegel said. “They’ve been very upfront with us.”
Department spokesman Doug Nintzel said ADOT strives to keep freeway restrictions and closures from coinciding with major public events, but in some cases, that just isn’t possible.
Road crews have narrowed or closed sections of U.S. 60 throughout Mesa in recent weeks as they work to complete a major widening and repaving project, and Nintzel said they must act quickly to beat a temperature-related deadline.
Rubberized asphalt will not adhere properly to road surfaces if it’s applied when the pavement underneath is cooler than 75 degrees Fahrenheit. And it will not set properly if the pavement is too hot, although the upper limit varies based on the application techniques used, Nintzel said.
In any case, summertime in Arizona is not a good time to pave freeways with the smoother, quieter and more durable surface.
“We’ve got a lot of paving to do before the weather gets too hot,” he said. “If it gets too hot, it can affect quality control.”
Organizers of the Renaissance Festival, which has been open weekends and holidays since Feb. 10 and continues through April 1, have been dealing with restrictions and outright closures on U.S. 60 throughout most of the event’s run.
“We’ve had our share of customer complaints with regard to closures and lane changes, etc.,” festival spokeswoman Sanja Malinovic said.
Still, she said the availability of alternate routes such as the Loop 202’s Red Mountain and Santan freeways give motorists new options, and that the work being performed this year will provide even easier access in the future.
For this weekend, ADOT recommends that westbound drivers heading away from the two events follow one of a handful of detours — such as turning south onto the Santan Freeway, north on Power Road to the Red Mountain Freeway, or exiting U.S. 60 two or three exits prior to the restricted area and using parallel surface roads.