Loop 202/Red Mountain Freeway, a primary traffic artery for East Valley commuters, soon will undergo construction in Tempe and Phoenix.
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Adding lanes to a freeway that carries an average of 150,000 vehicles a day will disrupt traffic.
“We’re going to have to ask the community to bear with us as we make these improvements,” Doug Nintzel, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Transportation, said Thursday.
The scope of the work is lengthy both in space and time. Construction along the nine miles from the Loop 101 interchange to the Interstate 10/state Route 51 junction will require restrictions starting Friday night and through late 2010.
“It’s the largest project we’ll launch this year,” Nintzel said.
And not far off is more work on a different stretch of the 202. Starting later this spring, crews will add carpool lanes between the 101 interchange and Gilbert Road. That project is expected to wrap in late summer 2010.
ADOT said motorists should expect lane restrictions during nights and weekends, plus occasional closures of the highway and on some of the connecting surface streets. Meanwhile, the speed limit will be lowered to 55 mph.
“We’re asking drivers to be careful in the work zone, and to realize there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Nintzel said.
Crews have been doing some preliminary work on the freeway overpasses at Washington Street and Mill Avenue. “But,” Nintzel said, “we have reached the point where the project is truly getting underway.”
The first restrictions go into effect at 10 p.m. Friday and last until Sunday morning:
* Eastbound Loop 202 will be narrowed to two lanes at the State Route 143 junction. Also closed will be the eastbound on-ramp at 44th Street.
* SR 143 will be closed in both directions between McDowell Road and Washington Street. In addition, the northbound ramp to westbound Loop 202 will be shut.
When the project is finished, the eastbound 202 will have one new lane from the I-10/SR 51 interchange to Rural Road/Scottsdale Road. From there, two new lanes will carry vehicles to the 101 and beyond.
Westbound, improvements are limited to two new lanes from the 101 to Hayden Road/McClintock Drive and one new lane to Rural/Scottsdale.
“This is designed to help ease congestion near the Loop 101 interchange,” Nintzel said. “Also, it will help with the flow of eastbound traffic between downtown Phoenix and Tempe, especially during the afternoon rush hour.”
The project’s cost is estimated at $189 million, and will be funded by tax revenue generated by Proposition 400, passed by Maricopa County voters earlier this decade.
Improving more of westbound Loop 202 “is a challenge beyond the budget set aside for this one,” Nintzel acknowledged.
One of the greater engineering feats conducted by ADOT and contractor Kiewit-Sundt will come where the 202 crosses the bed of the Salt River. The bridges there are a mile long, and adding size to them is no small feat.
“Crews are going to add new piers, and then place girders between those columns to create the extended bridge deck,” Nintzel said. “There will be work that takes place later this year, to drill shafts for the columns that will hold the deck.”
Motorists who regularly use the 202 are urged to stay up to date by visiting the project Web site at www.ValleyFreeways.com or by calling the project hotline at (602) 787-3927.
At a Glance
While crews gear up to widen Loop 202 (Red Mountain Freeway), work continues this weekend on Loop 101.
Beginning at 11 p.m. Friday, segments of the Price Freeway will be shut to traffic so construction on carpool lanes may continue. The closures will last until 5 a.m. Monday.
Southbound 101 is scheduled to be closed between Rio Salado Parkway and Guadalupe Road; also blocked will be on-ramps from Loop 202 and U.S. 60.
Farther south, northbound 101 will be closed between Loop 202 (Santan Freeway) and Warner Road.
Meanwhile, westbound US 60 between McClintock and Priest drives will have its right two lanes closed for freeway widening. The hours for that closure are the same as for the 101.