It’s not every day authorities encourage local kids to skate, bike, and run around on a freeway. But the opening of the Red Mountain Freeway portion of Loop 202 in east Mesa on Tuesday invited thousands of children and their families to do just that.
It’s not every day authorities encourage local kids to skate, bike, and run around on a freeway.
But the opening of the Red Mountain Freeway portion of Loop 202 in east Mesa on Tuesday invited thousands of children and their families to do just that.
Vendors and sponsors arrived at 3 p.m. to set up their booths, while locals showed up at the opening, which began at 5 p.m. Officials from around the state held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 6 p.m.
“I very rarely say this, except at ceremonies like this … Enjoy it while you can,” said Gov. Janet Napolitano to the skaters and bikers she encouraged to visit the entire stretch of freeway.
Visitors milled around the approximately 4 1/2-mile expanse enjoying the free food, water and in some instances free gasoline.
“We’re offering a $50 gas card to every person who signs up for our program, and we’re offering a $100 gas card to families of two or more who sign up,” said Paris Tucker, chief instructor for the Kaizen Martial Arts Academy.
Members of the martial arts academy performed self-defense demonstrations several times during the event.
“We’ll probably give away about $2,000 in gas by the time this is all done,” said Derek Frader, owner of the academy. He added that the booth had about 14 sign-ups.
Other vendors promoted their businesses by handing out free products, such as sirloin steak, ice cream and flowers.
The owner of Watson’s Flowers handed out free carnations, daisies, and roses to passers-by to promote his store and celebrate the grand opening of the freeway.
“We are delighted that it opened. Our business depends on delivery, and every extra mile of freeway makes our job much easier,” said owner David Johnson.
Department of Public Safety officials estimated about 10,000 people showed up.
“This is a chance for everyone to see the freeway as a finished product; this is really their tax dollars at work,” said Laura Douglas, spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Transportation.
This is the final leg of the freeway system approved by the voters of Maricopa County in 1985. The road network in its entirety — 137 miles of asphalt connecting east Mesa with Sun City, not to mention Chandler to Scottsdale and Avondale to Gilbert — has taken 23 years.
“We’ve been waiting for this freeway for a long time,” said Sally Wilson, a mother of three visiting with her family. “We really like the name: ‘Super-red-tan Freeway.’”