The City of Maricopa broke ground Monday on the first leg of what will eventually become a crucial transportation corridor.
The Sonoran Desert Parkway, formerly known as the East-West Corridor, will eventually link John Wayne Parkway from the south side of Maricopa to Interstate 10, providing access to the Valley without having to use SR 347 northbound through the Gila River Indian Community.
The event, held at West Smith and North Farrell roads, included city, county and tribal officials as well as local dignitaries. Construction on the $26 million project initially was scheduled to begin in January, but delays due to COVID-19, supply chain issues and bureaucracy delayed the start until Monday.
The initial leg of the project is a 1.6-mile stretch between John Wayne Parkway and Porter Road along the Farrell Road alignment. The four-lane parkway eventually will link SR 347 to Interstate 10 incorporating stretches of the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway, giving residents of the south side of the city a more efficient route to connect with I-10. It can be expanded to six lanes.
Mayor Christian Price spoke about the importance of the project to the city’s growth and economy.
“This is going to be an absolutely key and critical project for us as a city as we continue to expand,” Price said. “Look, at the end of the day, folks, the growth is coming, it doesn’t matter which way you slice it. There’s opportunity here and with Ak-Chin and the City of Maricopa working in partnership, there’s a lot of great things ahead. From tourism and people visiting, to the fact that people love what they find and love what they see when they come here, and so this is one of those major steps that’s been in the works for a very long time.”
Construction on the Sonoran Desert Parkway, which includes building a bridge across the Santa Cruz Wash as part of flood control measures in that area, is expected to take about 14 months.
Mike Riggs, the City’s public works director, told City Council when funding for the project was approved, that the parkway is designed with future growth in mind.
“The road will feature a four-lane bridge over Porter Road and the (Santa Rosa) wash,” Riggs said. “From Porter Road up to highway 347 will be a four-lane parkway, which is a 200-foot-wide roadway. In addition, there could be third lane in both directions, so it could be six lanes as soon as traffic deems it necessary.”
A developer working on multiple projects in the area agreed the need for the project will continue to grow as the city does.
Greg Davis, the president of Chandler’s Iplan Consulting, is working with developer W Holdings on the massive Santa Cruz Ranch project south of town near Stanfield. The 1,886-acre project will eventually be the site of more than 6,000 homes and 15,000 people. Davis said those new residents in the south part of the city will need a better way to get to the Valley other than through Maricopa on John Wayne Parkway.
“They can go whatever it is, 4-5 miles out to I-10 and then it’s an easy drive into the Valley, especially to the southeast Valley. The 347 is more of a direct shot for most of Maricopa but you already have traffic congestion on that road,” he said.
Davis said he thinks this project will provide a better and more immediate option than another, better-known alternative.
“I don’t think many developers are counting on I-11, it’s just too far down the road,” Davis said. “They are counting more on existing infrastructure. Our clients are also excited by the city’s commitment to extend its transportation to the south once that land is annexed. The East-West highway is also big because we know that it is funded, or at least large sections of it. We have confidence that’s going to happen sooner rather than later – more confidence than in improvements to the 347 or the I-11 coming, at least in the short term.”
The parkway provides tangible evidence of the steps that Maricopa government is taking to address growth in and around the city, Price said.
“I hope this is something that the people can see and feel and touch,” he said. “And that they can understand that their dollars are going toward something that is profitable to them, and that will help their businesses and their commutes and everything else. So again, this is the first step, and we’re very appreciative for it, and for all the folks who did the engineering, the planning, the funding, and all the things that have gone into it.”