Proposed North-South Corridor Highway Would Cut Across San Tan Valley

By Steve Shadley
Published: Monday, December 8, 2014 - 7:41am
Updated: Monday, December 8, 2014 - 8:09am
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Relief could be on the way for people stuck in traffic jams on Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson, if you don’t mind waiting a few decades.  The state is reviewing plans to build a highway in Pinal County that could reduce travel times between Arizona’s two biggest cities.   

The so-called “North-South Corridor” is a proposed 45-mile highway that would connect the U.S. 60 freeway in Apache Junction to I-10 near Eloy. 

The idea is to reduce traffic congestion on I-10 as it enters the metro Phoenix area from the south.  Traffic is already pretty bad on that stretch of the interstate.  But, ADOT spokesman Dustin Krugel said rapid growth in Pinal County will make things worse.

“There was a report from the U.S. Census Bureau from 2000 to 2010 that said they were the second largest, fastest growing county in the entire nation” Krugel said.

Most of the people who attended a recent public meeting on the corridor proposal voiced their support for the new highway.

Rick Miller is with the city of Coolidge and he hears a lot of complaints from commuters.

“One of the problems with I-10 is that it is a parking lot.  Just a few weeks ago it was closed all day long because of a couple of fatalities and you couldn’t get on it if you wanted to,” Smith said.

So, ADOT is working with a private company to identify possible routes for the North-South corridor. It would stretch across the farm-rich San Tan Valley. There are a few alternate proposals, and in two years after environmental studies are complete, they hope to have it narrowed down to one possible route.

“Transportation is such a key to the development of the community,” said Florence Mayor Tom Rankin. The new highway could run close to his town.

“It will help the whole area with economic development providing jobs and industry down here. That’s what we need,” Rankin said.

Only a few miles away from Florence, the city of Coolidge’s Mayor Jon Thompson is urging people in his community to support the project.

“We have landowners that we are working with right now through land annexation agreements that are willing to dedicate property for this freeway,” Thompson said.

Even though the road wouldn’t be built for a few decades, communities in its path are already debating the project. 

“There’s kind of a lifestyle clash in this area between people who are rural and want to maintain a rural lifestyle and people who want the city to grow and so this highway is sort of a symbol of that once it picks up steam," said Joey Chenoweth, editor of the Coolidge Examiner newspaper.

In addition to lifestyle preferences, the rugged and changing terrain of the San Tan Valley is also a challenge for ADOT. 

“The earth in Pinal County has settled some and where that earth comes close to bedrock so where we have mountain ranges, you begin to have some separation,” said
Michael LaBianca, a transportation planner with HDR engineering, a Phoenix firm working with the state on the project design.

He said its risky to build a road on those cracks in the earth caused by the use of groundwater for agriculture. And to the north, there’s the question whether the road will impact the Superstition Vistas on state trust land near Apache Junction. But the big question is where will the billions of dollars come from to build the road?  

“The gas tax that we’ve had since 1991 in Arizona has remained flat. We have a lot of people that are driving less and they are also driving more fuel efficient cars so the money that we’ve been receiving through these gas taxes is actually declining,” said ADOT spokesman Dustin Krugel.

Krugel said the state could get federal money for the project. But ADOT also is considering a public/private partnership, or it could be a toll road, if it’s built at all. Public comments on the North-South Corridor are being accepted through January 9. 

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