Fountain Hills, Mesa discussing Salt River bridge - East Valley Tribune: News

Fountain Hills, Mesa discussing Salt River bridge

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Posted: Friday, April 27, 2007 6:13 am | Updated: 7:24 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Mesa officials are receptive to the construction of a bridge over the Salt River that would shorten the drive between the far East Valley and the Beeline Highway.

This bridge has been proposed by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and backed by Fountain Hills.

A feasibility study will be undertaken later this year.

“It makes sense,” Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker said Thurwsday.

Although no plans have been committed to paper, the prospective site of the bridge is near the intersection of the Bush Highway and Usery Pass Road, across the river to state Route 87, also known as the Beeline Highway.

During the first-ever meeting between the councils of Mesa and Fountain Hills, much of the discussion centered on the lack of a north-south connector farther east than the two in existence.

Reaching the Beeline from west or central Mesa is a matter of driving north on Country Club Drive or Gilbert Road.

But from the city’s eastern areas, driving to the Beeline requires either a detour to Gilbert Road or a long drive along the Bush Highway.

The latter, mostly two-lane route is hilly, winding and frequently clogged with traffic from the nearby lakes and river.

Because of the geographic barrier, Fountain Hills suffers economically, in many ways:

• The long drive discourages Mesa residents from visiting, to the detriment of Fountain Hills businesses.

• Fountain Hills is hindered in attracting a labor pool because of the commute.

• The town is shut out from tapping into the East Valley’s booming centers of commerce.

“We’re looking to be connected to Williams Gateway Airport through that Usery Pass Road,” Fountain Hills Mayor Wally Nichols said.

Mesa officials tout the airport’s current $420 million annual economic impact created by the 90 businesses and 12,100 employees and students.

The city is projecting the airport will provide employment for 100,000 people by 2035.

Scott Butler, the city’s manager for the Williams Gateway area, said: “It’s really a regional asset, and not just a Mesa asset.”

The Maricopa County Department of Transportation has agreed to pay half the $150,000 cost for a bridge feasibility study.

Fountain Hills transportation planners have proposed a budget that would have the town and the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation splitting the other $75,000.

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