Tens of thousands of residents drive each day from the Queen Creek area to job centers in Maricopa County. According to the Small Area Transportation Study conducted with Arizona Department of Transportation, nine out of 10 workers in the Johnson Ranch/San Tan area have to drive into Maricopa County to get to their jobs.
And now, with gas prices and the mortgage crisis, many residents are enduring tough financial times and wishing they could work closer to home.
What a great idea — jobs, services and homes all located within the same community! Queen Creek has seen a great increase in commercial development recently — and it has been made possible because of investment in our local streets.
Both communities need to attract major employers that can offer higher-paying wages and attract an educated workforce to locate to this area. With a population of nearly 100,000 residents in the Queen Creek/northern Pinal area, why have major employers not chosen to locate here?
The answer is that employers look for growing areas with a qualified workforce, available land and easy access to freeways. The closest Loop 202 connection is 10 to 15 miles from Queen Creek/Florence and U.S. 60 is also 10 to 15 miles away.
What is the solution?
One possible solution is the location of the future Williams Gateway freeway (State Route 802) that, if done right, would serve the current and future population of the southeastern Maricopa/northern Pinal region.
The towns of Queen Creek and Florence are in support of an alternative to ADOT’s proposed Corridor 4 as the best solution to southeast Valley traffic congestion and provide economic development opportunities.
The proposed Corridor 4, as seen on the map, is not perfect in its current configuration, but something similar to it is worthy of examination.
Florence, Pinal County and Queen Creek representatives of landowners have worked together to demonstrate an alternative to Corridor 4 for ADOT’s consideration that would avoid negative impacts to existing homes, businesses, churches and schools that currently exist in Corridor 4. We accomplish this by utilizing the vast expanse of state land known as Superstition Vistas.
The alternative to Corridor 4 would run along the southern boundary of Superstition Vistas and serve the nearly 100,000 residents of Queen Creek, San Tan and Johnson Ranch area who are commuting to jobs in Maricopa County. Corridor 2 would neither serve them in their daily commute, nor would it help bring jobs to the area. Mesa and Apache Junction are served by U.S. 60 to the north. Chandler and Gilbert have Loop 202 running through their cities. Both U.S. 60 and Loop 202 have brought economic development/major employers to those cities. The heavily populated Queen Creek/Pinal area has no southern freeway that provides similar connections. This southern route would open up new opportunities for major employers to locate near a booming population.
Going forward with the Florence/Queen Creek alternative to Corridor 4 at this time makes the most sense for several reasons.
First is the sound logic of addressing the current situation, as well as progressively planning the next phases for future growth patterns. There is no doubt that when Superstition Vistas does develop, the region will need additional corridors. No one knows the time frame for this; it may not develop for several decades. There is a current need for a southern freeway in this congested and underserved region. Queen Creek and Pinal area are already overdue for a strategic solution.
Second is the opportunity to acquire land is now, while it is available. To come back after development has occurred would be cost-prohibitive.
Third is the boon to economic development that would occur along Corridor 4. With something similar to Corridor 4 in place, major employers will locate in this region. This serves two needs — not only is it an economic stimulus to the region, but now we take cars off the road because people can live and work in the same area.
We believe whole-heartedly that our current and future stakeholders can best be served by the collaborated alternative we have offered for ADOT’s consideration. We stand ready to work cooperatively with ADOT for the best solution for all.
Art Sanders is mayor of Queen Creek. Vicki Kilvinger is mayor of Florence.