The Arizona Department of Transportation announced that the Congressman Ed Pastor Freeway would be open by 2 p.m. today, Dec. 21.
The opening had been delayed beyond the Dec. 18 celebration of the completion of the 22-mile, eight-lane freeway connecting the Chandler and West 59 Avenue interchanges of I-10 because crews needed to install lane reflectors and give a skid-resistant coating to the surface of the rubberized asphalt.
A final inspection also was needed, as ADOT Director John Halikowski explained on Dec. 18, as engineers were "taking a look at all of the features and making sure everything's done the way that it's supposed to be done.”
Motorists also will be well advised not to treat the new freeway like Germany's Autobahn.
Gov. Doug Ducey reminded the crowd at the Dec. 18 gathering on one of the new Salt River Bridges that he had allocated $6 million for new Department of Public Safety patrols along the entire stretch.
Despite the confusion surrounding an actual opening date, the mood Dec. 18 was celebratory several speakers hailed completion of Arizona’s largest highway project in history.
Even Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis was jubilant as he stood next to Ducey.
Although he did not speak address the crowd, which included members of Pastor’s family, Lewis had put behind him his community’s bitter three-year court fight to stop the freeway.
Asked by AFN how he felt about the Dec. 18 event despite that fight, Lewis said, “We’re connected – that's the takeaway of today. You know, we're connected and it's about moving forward.”
“What we're looking at now is the other big issue, the I-10 widening. That 22-mile stretch is the last stretch of the I-10 that’s four lanes it's the most dangerous in the nation. And so, we've have to get that.”
He was referring to the community’s ongoing negotiations with ADOT to widen to six lanes the stretch of I-10 between the Queen Creek Interchange and Casa Grande.
Asked about the Pastor Freeway’s impact on his community, Lewis said it “definitely” would be significant, but declined to elaborate.
The Gila River Indian Community is already getting a significant development directly from ADOT in the form of an additional freeway ramp that will lead right to its Vee Quiva Casino.
That ramp and the freeway interchange at 32nd Street in Ahwatukee will be completed by next July at an additional cost of $1 million each.
Connecting the Chandler and West 59th Avenue interchanges on I-10, the 22-mile, eight-lane Pastor Freeway cost about $1.7 billion.
Ducey and Halikowsky said it could have cost millions more if it had not been for the unique public-private partnership whose design-build approach to the freeway’s construction cut as much as three years off the length of construction.
“ADOT is fortunate for its strong partnerships that have helped guide us in the planning, design, and development phases,” Halikowsky told the crowd. “We've had a solid team that helped move this project forward every step of the way.”
Ducey said the freeway symbolized Arizona’s commitment to growth.
“More people choose Arizona,” he said. “We're making sure our infrastructure remains some of the best in America.”
He called the freeway a “big step forward in connecting the East Valley and the West Valley and an alternative to the I-10 and the Broadway loop through downtown Phoenix.”
“This project is the result of an innovative public private partnership that will save Arizona taxpayers more than $100 million.”
Ducey also pointed out that he had allocated $6 million “to hire new DPS patrol officers to be on this project.”
He also hailed the freeway’s namesake, calling Pastor “someone who worked every day to bring people together and he was a champion of improving critical infrastructure across our nation.”
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego gave the longest speech, stating it is “a personal point of pride” that the entire freeway is within city limits “so, our city is now a stronger and more connected city. But we know that this will help us have better relationships and connectivity with our neighbors as well.”
She drew some laughs when she noted that planning for the freeway began in 1983 – a year before state Sen. Sean Bowie was born.
Bowie and Rep. Jennifer Jermaine, whose district includes Ahwatukee, were on hand for the event.
Gallego also said it was “vitally important that all stakeholders had this collaborative approach and stayed open to new ideas” during the freeway planning process.
“For example, early on, the city of Phoenix had some concerns about interchanges where the roadway was going over the freeway instead of at ground level. We felt that our communities on both sides of the freeway would be better connected with ground-level roadways and ADOT worked with us to address that and help us build connected communities and strengthen ties on both sides of the freeway.
“That has also allowed us to do some advanced construction work and try to speed up so that as the freeway opens more and more businesses will be able to open as soon as possible,” she added, noting she was delighted that the freeway enabled Harkins Theater to build a movie house closer to her home.
Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell, who is this year’s chairman of the Maricopa Association of Governments – a key player in getting the freeway approved by voters in 1985 and partially financing it – also was jubilant.
“I worked tirelessly over the three decades to see this moment really come to fruition,” Mitchell said.
“it will see more than 100,000 cars a day and save significant travel time, not only for folks using this new freeway, but because they are bypassing the majority of Phoenix,” Mitchell said, predicting it “will also create important new economic opportunities” since half of all population and economic growth in the near future in the county will occur in its southwest and southeast quadrants.”
Echoing that sentiment, Federal Highway Administration Division Administrator Karla Petty said, "This segment of the Loop 202 will provide faster and easier access between the East and West Valley cities while making it more convenient for residents to access other parts of the Valley for work, shopping, education and entertainment."
“The benefits of this project are significant and we will see them for years to come,” she added. “They will be enjoyed by residents, the business community and the regional commuters. This segment of the Loop 202 will provide faster and easier access between the East and West Valley cities while making it more convenient for residents to access other parts of the Valley for work, education, shopping and entertainment.”
Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill agreed, telling the crowd, “Today is really a game changer for Arizona business.”
“We're going to going forward in creating hundreds of thousands of jobs for Arizona's and creating those opportunities and it's fantastic. What's really fantastic is just seeing the public and private partnership that's come together between the Gila River Indian Community, the state of Arizona, Federal Highway Administration, MAG and the city of Phoenix,” Bidwill added.
Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke said his cioy has been preparing for the freeway’s opening for months because it gives his city a chance to tap into the potential job market in the West Valley to fill hundreds of opening in Chandler.
""There's a very qualified workforce out there, whether it's plumbers, electricians, carpenters or engineers," Hartke told the San Tan Sun News, saying newer companies that have settled in Chandler "are super-excited about this freeway opening."