An aerial photo shows progress on the construction of two half-mile-long bridges that will take the South Mountain Freeway over the Salt River just north of Southern Avenue in Laveen.
Arizona Department of Transportation

Blasting in Ahwatukee to make way for the South Mountain Freeway may not be necessary after all.

Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman Dustin Krugel told AFN last week that freeway developer Connect 202 Partners “is in the process of evaluating whether it will be necessary to conduct limited controlled rock blasting within the Pecos Road segment as part of ongoing earthwork activities.”

Although surveys of homes in the blast area, west of 32nd Street, are still underway, Krugel said ADOT won’t know whether blasting is necessary until late this month.

Meanwhile, ADOT also last week issued a news release stating that freeway work is proceeding at a swift pace.

At the same time, the pace has been anything but swift in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where freeway opponents are fighting a last-ditch effort to stop construction of the 22-mile thoroughfare that will connect the Chandler and 59th Avenue interchanges of I-10 and allow I-10 traffic to bypass downtown Phoenix.

Although the primary parties in that case have all filed their briefs, the court must rule on whether to allow 21 Southwest Native American tribes to intervene and must set a date for oral argument.

ADOT is taking full advantage of the appeals court’s refusal to grant an injunction request that the Gila River Indian Community and Protect Arizona’s Resources and Children had filed in December to stop construction until the court fight was resolved.

PARC President Pat Lawless of Ahwatukee said her organization likely would again seek an injunction if blasting is scheduled.

The blasting in Ahwatukee is separate from blasting that will occur on South Mountain next year when crews beginning carving a 200-foot-wide path across three peaks.

The mountain is part of a segment between 51st Avenue and 32nd Lane – the only segment along the freeway path where construction is not currently occurring.

ADOT has repeatedly said that by working along most of the right-of-way simultaneously, the agency will be able to keep costs down for the $1.77 billion project – the most expensive in state history. That coordinated construction effort also is aimed at completing the project by late 2019.

“Less than six months after major construction began on the state’s largest single highway project ever, progress on the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway has been swift,” ADOT said in its release.

“In Ahwatukee Foothills, future interchanges are taking shape at 17th Avenue and 40th Street, with columns and abutments in place and crews scheduled to begin placing bridge girders next month,” the highway agency said, adding:

“In Laveen, 72 large concrete piers form the start of two half-mile-long bridges that will carry traffic over the Salt River. In the West Valley, work continues to create an interchange with the I-10 Papago Freeway at 59th Avenue, including adding piers that will carry ramps.”

Calling the freeway “a critically needed transportation project for Valley motorists,” ADOT said the 2019 completion date would be three years ahead of when work would be completed if it was done one segment at a time in nine stages.

Connect 202 Partners consists of Fluor Enterprises Inc., Granite Construction Co. and Ames Construction Inc., with Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc. as the lead designer. It also will be responsible for maintenance for the next 30 years.

While work is proceeding along the thoroughfare, design also is continuing.  

ADOT said those two approaches to the project make for greater efficiency and keeps the $1.77 billion project – the most expensive in state history – from exceeding cost estimates.

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