A new freeway exit and new section of Ray Road will open Monday in east Mesa, easing the commute for thousands of drivers and improving access to the burgeoning Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.
The $12.7 million project will allow drivers on the Santan Freeway segment of Loop 202 to exit at Hawes Road for the first time since the freeway opened in 2006. Drivers will have a clear line of sight to the airport, instead of exiting at Power Road and navigating through multiple traffic signals and trying to spot airport signs that get lost in the clutter of signs along a shopping center.
“The minute they drop off of Hawes, they’re literally looking at the airport and can easily identify ‘That’s where I need to go,’ ” said Scot Rigby, the Mesa Gateway project manager.
And while the road is entirely in Mesa, the city knows drivers from other places will appreciate it. Residents who live south of Mesa but use Loop 202 to get to their jobs will shave time off their commutes, Rigby said.
“The Queen Creek-northern Pinal County people are going to benefit tremendously,” Rigby said. “With this Ray Road and the Hawes interchange, it brings freeway access three miles closer to Queen Creek and Pinal County. Immediately, they’ll benefit from this road.”
The new Ray segment extends Ray, which ends just east of Power Road now, to Ellsworth Road. That nearly three-mile section opens up raw desert that was undevelopable because property owners didn’t have direct access to their land. Also, the road includes water and sewer lines that allow developers to begin a new urban core that could eventually support six- to eight-story office, hotel or residential towers. The road is part of Mesa’s plan to have 100,000 jobs around the airport eventually.
Councilman Scott Somers represents southeast Mesa and expects the road to trigger some projects soon.
“Within the next year or two, we’ll start to see some development taking shape,” Somers said.
Land owners were so eager for the road to open up in the area that all 15 of them along the route donated land to the city. That saved Mesa more than $5 million. Ray will open as a two-lane road. As development arrives, property owners will pay to widen the segment that passes by their property.
The road will play a key role in Gateway’s growing role as a commuter airport. Gateway plans to construct a massive new passenger terminal on the now-barren northeast side of the property within a decade. The the new Ray segment finally makes that accessible, airport spokesman Brian Sexton said.
“It’s the beginning point of opening development on the north and east side,” Sexton said.