Williams Gateway Freeway clears another hurdle - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Williams Gateway Freeway clears another hurdle

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Posted: Thursday, May 28, 2009 6:11 pm | Updated: 1:32 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The city of Mesa has passed another obstacle in finding money to start the proposed Williams Gateway Freeway.

Mesa is seeking $8 million of regional highway funding so it can issue $45 million of bonds, with that money going toward land purchases and design of the freeway's first mile.

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The plan was unanimously approved Wednesday by the Maricopa Association of Governments' Regional Council.

Final consent must come from the State Transportation Board, which next meets June 19. If passed there, Mesa officials believe design and right-of-way acquisition could begin in mid-2010.

Currently under way is an environmental assessment by the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, and work could only commence after that is finished some time early next year.

Williams Gateway, also known as state Route 802, would connect Loop 202/Santan Freeway with U.S. 60 near Florence Junction, southeast of Gold Canyon. The freeway is deemed essential to the growth of the far southeast Valley, including east Mesa, Queen Creek and unincorporated Pinal County.

However, the start of design has been delayed as budget woes smother the state.

Earlier this year, the cash-strapped Legislature "swept" $20.4 million in state transportation money that had been designated for design work on the 802. And when Mesa sought to reclaim the funding via the federal stimulus package, the State Transportation Board deemed the project unworthy because it isn't "shovel-ready."

The $8 million Mesa now seeks would've gone toward land purchases near the freeway's first mile, from the 202 near Warner Road to Ellsworth Road.

But Mesa now is proposing to issue Highway Project Advancement Notes, by the city's excise tax, to fund the design work and right-of-way acquisitions. That $8 million would be used to cover the interest expense on the financing.

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