QC plans upgrades to Hunt Highway, Ellsworth Rd. - East Valley Tribune: News

QC plans upgrades to Hunt Highway, Ellsworth Rd.

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Posted: Thursday, December 25, 2008 5:44 pm | Updated: 11:14 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Queen Creek is hoping for a $23.4 million share of the economic stimulus package proposed by President-elect Barack Obama to create public works jobs, rebuild the nation's infrastructure and stimulate the economy.

Queen Creek's requests would widen two heavily traveled areas from two lanes to six with bike lanes, with $5.4 million going toward improvements at the Hunt Highway and Ellsworth Road/Empire Boulevard intersection and $18 million on Ellsworth Road between Empire and Cloud roads.

Ellsworth and Rittenhouse roads are the two most heavily traveled in Queen Creek, said transportation director Dick Schaner.

And with the completion of the Ellsworth Loop project, the town would like to create a seamless thoroughfare on Ellsworth Road down that stretch to Pinal County, where it meets up with the Hunt Highway, said assistant town manager Patrick Flynn.

Both projects could be ready to start within 90 days, which was one of the criteria for submitting requests, Flynn said.

"We have lots more projects we would have loved to throw in," Flynn said. "But we were looking at what could be ready in three months."

Not to mention what it would do for traffic.

"It's a bottle neck. When I went home last night at a quarter to six, traffic was backed up (on Ellsworth) for over a mile," Schaner said. "You can only get so many cars through the light if you have one lane going in each direction."

At this point, the town has those projects slated to start in September with funding coming from a loan, Schaner said. But since the town needs to make sure it can pay back the loan in 2012, the stimulus package would provide a sure funding source.

It would also free up funds slated for Ellsworth Road for another project - namely, a $9 million project to widen Rittenhouse Road between Ocotillo and Power roads, Schaner said.

While a lot of work has been done to design the Rittenhouse widening, it's been shelved for now.

Flynn said road improvements could come out of the town's contingency funds, which it had in the past, but Queen Creek is keeping a tight hold on those reserves.

Sales tax revenues from new stores like Target and Wal-Mart are offsetting a decline in money coming in through fund sources like building permits, Flynn said.

However, Flynn is staying cautious as he continues monitoring the sales tax receipts.

As for the stimulus proposal, Flynn called it "phenomenal."

"There's a lot of pressure on the president-elect. There's a lot of hope out there," Flynn said. "And I think he's going to deliver."

While it's impossible to know what will happen with the stimulus proposal until after Jan. 20, Flynn said he's hopeful we'll see a multi-faceted approach that will generate job creation and require banks to lend money they've received from the government.

"You can talk about cheap mortgage rates and cheap houses, but the crux is someone having a job," Flynn said.

Schaner said it was tough to calculate how many jobs Queen Creek's projects could produce, although he said there were probably 100 people working on the construction of the Ellsworth Loop project.

Plus, it generated orders for things like asphalt and steel production, which keeps other workers busy, he said.

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