Surprise mayoral candidates tackle transportation, tough issues - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

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Surprise mayoral candidates tackle transportation, tough issues

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Posted: Friday, September 23, 2011 3:30 am

Improvements to Grand Avenue that would alleviate traffic in and out of Surprise, while also providing enhanced economic development by attracting jobs to the city, is among the goals of the two mayoral candidates.

The Maricopa Association of Government’s 20-year Regional Transportation Plan calls for a number of Valley freeway and regional improvements — and the construction of an overpass or underpass at Grand Avenue and Bell Road is what Mayor Lyn Truitt believes he can bring to Surprise.

Such an ambitious project can work as the Arizona Department of Transportation and city of Glendale worked together several years ago to alleviate traffic in historic downtown Glendale by creating an underpass at the busy intersection of 55th and Grand avenues.

Motorists traveling on Grand Avenue can avoid 55th Avenue altogether — 55th Avenue serves as the intersection’s overpass — by traveling east or westbound on the state highway without stopping at a traffic light.

Truitt, a member of MAG’s Transportation Policy Committee and Regional Public Transportation Authority’s board of directors, said during Wednesday’s candidate forum at Surprise City Hall that east-west thoroughfare connections in and out of Surprise are vital to quality of life for residents, and they will enable the city to attract new businesses.

Former Councilwoman Sharon Wolcott, who’s challenging Truitt in the Nov. 8 runoff election, echoed her opponent’s vision, saying the reconstruction of one the Valley’s busiest intersections could also pave the way in providing commuter rail along the BNSF railway to transport people and goods to downtown Phoenix and beyond.

Both candidates also showed support for extending Beardsley Road from Surprise to Loop 101 to provide more east-west options for residents, but believe Peoria Avenue would be the ideal roadway for extension.

Truitt explained that informal discussions have taken place between Surprise and the city of Peoria to make such a project a reality. Truitt said Surprise could invest several million dollars for the project that both he and Wolcott believe would better serve a majority of residents.

During the forum, which also featured remarks from candidates squaring off in the District 2 and 3 council races, Wolcott and Truitt touched on the significance the completed Loop 303 will play in attracting new businesses

“There are opportunities to leverage transportation elements throughout Surprise and bring greater economic development our way,” Wolcott said.

Zach Colick can be reached at 623-876-2522 or zcolick@yourwestvalley.com.

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