A burgeoning section of Power Road featuring shops, restaurants, two schools and an airport has long lacked a vital asset: an urban throughway to connect them all.
After years in the planning stages, the widening of a 2.6-mile section between the Santan Freeway and Pecos Road is nearing the construction phase. Construction on the $20 million project funded by Maricopa County, Mesa and Gilbert is expected to begin in March and take about 14 months.
The new Power Road - with three lanes in each direction - should provide relief to motorists, particularly those who get backed up during rush hour between Williams Field and Pecos Road, a section that is mostly one lane.
"We're at the 90-percent design level," said Kelly Jensen, Mesa's assistant city engineer. "We expect to finalize the plans in the next three months, then start the right-of-way acquisition process.
"The paperwork and appraisals are taking place now. We hope to have the right of way acquired by January or February, and then we'll start work."
The area is a destination spot, with Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, Arizona State University's Polytechnic campus and shopping centers nearby. And the East Valley Institute of Technology's East Campus will open there in August.
"It should have been widened eight to 10 years ago," Barry Jackson of Gilbert said.
An intergovernmental agreement was crafted in 2009, with construction slated to begin this summer. But, as can happen with multi-jurisdictional projects, time was needed to get all parties on the same page. Also, ASU and the Gila River Indian Community, which runs the nearby Williams Air Force Base Golf Course, had to be consulted, Jensen said.
Under the agreement terms, the county pays half of the costs, with Mesa and Gilbert splitting the rest.
Much of the necessities have been ironed out, so much of the recent focus has been on aesthetics.
Tami Ryall, Gilbert assistant town manager, said that the section - which officials have dubbed the "Power Knowledge Corridor" - will have a unique look, from the bridge treatments to retaining walls to traffic signs.
"We have been meeting internally about having a distinct visual character," Ryall said. "We want the landscaping and signs to be distinctive. When you get off the freeway and go down, you'll know you're driving someplace different."
For much of the section, the northbound and southbound lanes will be split by a wide median.
As they approach Williams Field Road, the lanes will separate by a few hundred feet, creating an intersection similar to that of a freeway exit overpass. That was a necessity, Mesa civil engineer Chris Scott said, with the Roosevelt Canal, an apartment complex and Qwest fiberoptic switching station near the intersection.
To avoid delays from traffic and construction, EVIT students are being advised to drive eastbound on Williams Field Road and enter through the ASU Polytechnic campus. About 350 students are expected at the East Campus on Aug. 8, the first day of school.
"That will make it as safe as possible for students and buses," said Katie Askins, EVIT director of recruitment.
The project contractor, Hayden Building Corporation of Phoenix, has proposed working on the entire section of Power Road simultaneously.
"If you work in increments, it could take up to two years, and we don't want to extend it out that long," Jensen said. "If we can get all three (government) agencies and the property owners to come together on it, we're hoping we can get it completed in 14 months."