Skyline Drive is significant to Pinal County’s future — officials have long considered it a future east-west route through state trust lands to state Route 79. Driving down it now, though, is a strange trip — several miles of the road heading east only serve to take drivers nowhere . . . fast.
Eastern Skyline Drive originates from southward Schnepf Road where it curves east, about two miles south of Combs Road. Heading east on Skyline, drivers pass small county neighborhoods, older housing and horse properties — nothing like the masterplanned communities slated to rise out of the desert in the future.
At Quail Run Lane, the neighborhoods fall away and Skyline drives on, over the Central Arizona Project canal, into pristine state trust lands. From its intersection with Quail Run to about a mile past Felix Road, Skyline Drive has been freshly paved with rubberized asphalt, further muting vehicle sounds on the quiet desert drive.
The few trucks that venture onto this remote stretch of Skyline speed down its smooth surface. Some head to the end of the line, which for Skyline now is just before the Magma Railroad tracks, at the site of a future masterplanned community, Silverado Ranch. There, the road becomes gravel, then a dirt path, winding and dipping out of sight, passable only to bulldozers.
Pinal County spokesman Joe Pyritz said developers are paving Skyline, considered a road of regional significance in the county’s ongoing small area transportation study.
“All of our roads of regional significance are expected to be six-lane roads,” Pyritz added, meaning Skyline will have four more lanes of rubberized asphalt someday.
Pyritz said there isn’t a timeline for connecting Skyline to Route 79. Doing so would involve venturing across the railroad tracks and several miles farther into the Superstition Vistas state trust land area. But county and Arizona Department of Transportation documents show the county sees an opportunity in Skyline, an opportunity for another east-west route for residents in its urban pockets, places such as Johnson, Merrill and Silverado ranches.
Silverado Ranch, approved in 2004, is expected to have more than 1,800 homes on 556 acres surrounded by state trust land and bounded on the southeast corner by the railroad. It is still in the county’s planning process.
In the meantime, bicyclists and bovines are taking advantage of the road where pavement has for once preceded population. A cattle guard near the end of the road has a sign warning bicyclists to take care, and a couple of cyclists did brave the heat one sunny afternoon last week to ride on what is, perhaps, the county’s smoothest pavement.