The Arizona Department of Transportation made it official today: There will be no community party to celebrate the opening of the South Mountain Freeway.
"Because of a fast-moving construction schedule and the Arizona Department of Transportation’s commitment to open the South Mountain Freeway to traffic before the end of the year, a community event won’t be held," spokesman Timothy Tait told AFN Tuesday.
Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski jumped the gun last month by announcing on social media that a party will be held Dec. 21 to open the South Mountain Freeway.
”We have not yet made an announcement about any events," ADOT spokesman Tom Herrmann told AFN shortly after Nowakowski's blunder.
Nowakowski posted on various social media sites a confusing graphic showing a map of the 22-mile freeway with an arrow pointing to Elliot Road and the I-10 and text said people will be able to walk, run, bike and otherwise party along the freeway.
Later it was reported the party would be on a another segment of the freeway in Laveen.
Some ADOT representatives have told lawmakers privately that the freeway will open around Dec. 20, although ADOT has made no announcement of a firm opening date.
At the Nov. 18 meeting of the Ahwatukee Foothills Village Planning Committee, an ADOT representative who appeared for a freeway project update said no opening date has been set.
She told the panel there would likely be a party similar to those that have been held in the past to mark the opening of other freeway segments in Maricopa County.
The $1.7-billion, eight-lane freeway will connect the Chandler and West 59th Avenue interchanges of Interstate 10.
Although stretches of the freeway appear to still need paving, ADOT is hoping its deadline for end-of-the-ear completion will be met by Connect202Partners, the consortium of builders that is designing and building it.
Even if the freeway is officially opened by the end of this month, considerable work still needs to be done.
“After the freeway opens, our primary work will include the 32nd Street interchange, constructing the multi-use path and landscaping, along with some other tasks,” Herrmann said.
“The multi-use path and the 32nd Street interchanged are expected to be completed next summer.”
The interchange was added to the project last year after an ADOT survey showed strong public support for it.
The agency had dropped plans for it five years ago after a citizens advisory group had urged no interchange at 32nd, ADOT said.
Herrmann also said that the half-divergent diamond interchanges at 17th Avenue and Desert Foothills Parkway appear to be giving motorists no problems.
Those interchanges, used on freeways in a few other states, are the first of their kind in Arizona.
“I’ve had the chance to observe and traffic is moving nicely at both locations,” Herrmann said.