A frenzy of highway projects are planned for the next five years to ease the East Valley's worst traffic woes and speed trips Valley residents take across the state.
Planners are at work to double the lanes on U.S. 60 in east Mesa, add lanes to the Interstate 10 at the Broadway Road curve and finish Loop 202 in Gilbert and Mesa.
Transportation experts also are preparing to widen the often clogged interstates leading to the Valley and to rebuild windy two-lane roads that take drivers to Las Vegas or Superior.
Some of the projects have been little more than dotted lines on a map for decades. Growth and congestion, however, are triggering work to start soon.
"Projects that once seemed a long way away are closer to reality," said Doug Nintzel, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Transportation. "That's good news for drivers around the state."
The projects are part of a $3.5 billion plan ADOT is putting together. The State Transportation Board is looking for public comment on the plan, including a hearing Friday, before it considers approving the plan this summer.
One of the most significant East Valley projects will widen U.S. 60 from six to 12 lanes from Val Vista Drive to the new Loop 202 interchange near Hawes Road. The cost: $85 million.
ADOT also is planning to widen I-10 from Baseline Road to state Route 51. About $135 million is set aside for this project — but that's just the start of a much larger plan.
That section needs $500 million to $1 billion of work, said Eric Anderson, the transportation director for the Maricopa Association of Governments.
MAG is studying collector/distributor lanes — essentially a freeway next to the main portion of I-10 to handle local traffic.
"If you can separate the traffic that's going to want to exit I-10 from the through traffic, you substantially reduce the weaving movements," Anderson said. "You get a better traffic flow."
Also on I-10, ADOT plans to add a third lane in each direction from Loop 202 to Riggs Road. More widening will occur on I-10 from Picacho Peak into the heart of Tucson.
Drivers also will get relief on summer trips to northern Arizona. ADOT expects to expand Interstate 17 to five lanes in each direction from Loop 101 to the Carefree Highway.
ADOT is continuing years-long plans to widen some of the most hazardous two-lane highways. ADOT will widen U.S. 60 at Gonzales Pass, a twisting road south of Superior that has been the site of many deadly crashes. Workers will transform more of U.S. 93 into a four-lane highway between Wickenburg and Kingman.
Officials have rough dates assigned to projects — and timing could change based on what voters decide in November. Maricopa County residents will decide the fate of a $15.8 billion plan that involves extending a half-cent sales tax that will fund transportation projects for 20 years.
If the plan passes, Anderson said, the county will have enough money to speed up Valley projects.
The U.S. 60 widening project in Mesa could move ahead a year, to 2006. And the I-17 work could move two or three years ahead of its tentative 2009 start date.