State transportation officials plan to close down a eight-mile stretch of Loop 101 this weekend that will have an impact on motorists trying to get to and from major events in Scottsdale and Tempe.
The Arizona Department of Transportation is scheduled to shut down northbound lanes of Loop 101’s Pima Freeway between Loop 202’s Red Mountain Freeway intersection in Tempe and Via de Ventura in Scottsdale from tonight to early Monday morning to install a work zone in preparation for building car-pool lanes.
The closure could present a problem for the estimated 40,000 to 60,000 people expected to attend the Shrine Circus this weekend at WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 N. Pima Road, said Linda Hartrick, accountant for the El Zaribah Shriners philanthropy group based in Phoenix.
This is the fourth year the three-ring circus has been held at WestWorld, she said.
Hartrick said the freeway closure is on short notice and could affect circus attendance.
“This is really bad for the Shrine Circus that’s going to be at the WestWorld Equidome. (Drivers) are going to be late or maybe not get there at all,” she said. “Somewhere the ball got dropped.”
Doug Nintzel, ADOT spokesman, said the primary reason for working along the northbound side of the freeway this weekend is to minimize the project’s impact on fans attending the Arizona State University-Oregon State football game in Tempe on Saturday.
“The northbound closure will affect the fewest fans going to the game from the northeast Valley,” Nintzel said. “Crews will be able to work on the southbound side of the freeway next weekend when the Sun Devils are on the road.”
The Timex Triathlon is scheduled for Sunday at Tempe Town Lake, as well.
The southbound freeway will be closed the following weekend, from Sept. 28 to Oct. 1.
ADOT has been aiming for a September start for the $47.5 million high-occupancy-vehicle lane project, which ultimately will add the lanes in both directions to a 15-mile stretch of Loop 101 between Princess Drive in Scottsdale and Loop 202. Officials have postponed the work once already out of concern it will affect WestWorld events.
“We’re at the point where we need to start setting up that work zone,” Nintzel said. “It’s always a challenge to work around major events in the area, but at some point you have to move ahead with the project.”
ADOT couldn’t avoid the freeway closure this weekend, he said.
“Sooner or later, we’re going to have to have these freeway closures,” Nintzel said. “We just have to advise drivers they’re going to have to use an alternate route to get to the north Valley.”
During the closures, crews plan to set up concrete barriers on the interior shoulders of the freeway and shift the traffic lanes about 5 feet to the outside to create a work zone in preparation for installing the HOV lanes, he said.
Initially, ADOT had planned to completely close off northbound Loop 101 between the 90th Street/Pima Road exit and the Pima/Princess roads exit for several days, beginning Sept. 8. But state officials had to reschedule and revise the project after realizing it would have required closing a portion of northbound Loop 101 during events in January and February, such as the FBR Open golf tournament in Scottsdale.
The entire project is expected to be done by early 2009, ADOT officials said.
Closed to traffic
Loop 101 from Loop 202 to Via de Ventura
• Northbound, 10 p.m. today to 5 a.m. Monday.
• Southbound, Sept. 28 to Oct. 1.