The South Mountain Freeway will be getting an interchange at 32nd Street in Ahwatukee after all, the Arizona Department of Transportation announced today.
Construction of the connecting ramps will occur at a later date following the freeway's projected opening late next year so as not to delay the 22-mile thoroughfare's scheduled opening.
Mountain Freeway. The additional work won’t delay the opening of the South Mountain Freeway, which is set for as early as late 2019.
The decision came partially after ADOT received an overwhelmingly positive reaction from some 1,200 people who submitted responses to ADOT earlier this year when the agency sought public input on the interchange. Of those 1,200 responses, more than 1,000 asked that the interchange be built.
ADOT in 2005 scrubbed the interchange in response to requests from a citizens advisory committee, the agency said.
But after local political leaders and residents began raising concerns about the absence of an interchange near a highly populated part of the community that includes numerous schools, ADOT began reevaluating that decision.
In comparison to the $1.7 billion cost of the connecting freeway between the Chandler and West 59th Avenue interchanges on Interstate 10, the cost of the new interchange may seem slightly more than chump change.
"Adding the ramps is projected to cost approximately $10 million," ADOT said, noting that funds will come "either from right-of-way savings achieved through the public-private partnership finalized in February 2016 with Connect 202 Partners, the builder of the South Mountain Freeway, or through funding allocated by the Maricopa Association of Governments. The developer was tasked with developing innovate approaches for construction and engineering, including reducing the amount of property that must be acquired for the freeway."
The announcement comes nearly two months after ADOT initially had hoped to make a decision.
But ADOT spokesman Dustin Krugel told AFN earlier this week, ‘We originally said nine months and it looks like we needed the whole nine months"
“There are multiple reviews and negotiations and it just takes a lot of time,” he added.
Krugel said that a complicated environmental study had been undertaken as part of the decision-making and that too involved a lot of time.
Moreover, before that study could be completed, ADOT and freeway design-builders Connect202Partners had to have some of the interchange design completed.
Krugel said the environmental study included air quality and other potential impacts in the immediate area.
Cancelling the interchange came at a time when ADOT also wanted to save money because an interchange would require it to take more houses.
Only within the past year did engineers see a way to build it without taking more homes.