Faced with the prospect of further explosive growth in the Southeast Valley, Mesa and Queen Creek are hustling to build two major roadways that will connect with a future extension the State Route 24 freeway.
The cities have agreed to design and build Meridian and Signal Butte roads northward from where they now stop in Queen Creek to the freeway, creating two new major north-south routes in the area.
State Route 24 currently exists for only one mile between Loop 202 and Ellsworth Road. A five-mile extension to Ironwood Road is scheduled for completion in late 2022, with construction beginning in the fall of 2020.
SR24 gives drivers from southeast Mesa, Queen Creek and the San Tan Valley area the quickest access to the Valley’s entire freeway system.
But without connections to Signal Butte and Meridian, Ellsworth Road would remain the primary access road — and Ellsworth already operates at what traffic engineers call an “F” level of service, unable to handle the traffic it already has.
Troy White, director of public works in Queen Creek, said new roads are absolutely essential in view of population projections in the region.
Queen Creek’s current population is estimated at 52,000 and nearby areas in Pinal County have about 105,000 residents, he said. “We are estimating that by the year 2024, that population is going to be close to 200,000.”
That adds up to a growth rate of nearly 30 percent in just five years.
“With that much added population we really need to have those additional north-south connections to State Route 24,” White said.
Building the two roads is a cooperative effort not only with Mesa but also with Pinal County and private developers, White said.
Signal Butte Road currently exists in Queen Creek, but it stops at Queen Creek Road, creating about a four-mile gap between there and the future freeway.
So, White said, “The town is working with Fulton Homes to get Signal Butte Road punched through from Queen Creek to Germann, and then the (agreement) we have with Mesa is going to take it from Germann and connect to the State Route 24.”
The Signal Butte extension will cost about $12 million. Queen Creek will foot much of the bill initially, with Mesa to reimburse the town no later than 2030.
Meridian Road has even larger gaps. Northbound in Queen Creek, it stops at Combs Road. Under an agreement with Pinal County, “We are going to do all the missing pieces of Meridian Road from Combs to Germann Road,” White said.
Queen Creek and Pinal County are sharing the $8 million bill to build Meridian Road from Combs northward to SR24.
White said the agreements with Mesa and Pinal County were relatively easy to negotiate because all three governments recognize the needs of the burgeoning region.
Mesa Mayor John Giles agreed.
“When it comes to transportation in the East Valley, jurisdictional boundaries are simply lines on a map,” Giles said. “This area is a hot spot for growth and our transportation system needs to grow as well.”
Queen Creek has other major road projects on the books as it continues its lightning-speed race toward a projected buildout population of 110,000.
“We’re widening Rittenhouse (Road) from two lanes to five lanes from Riggs all the way to Ocotillo. … We want to start construction on that anywhere from late fall to early winter of this year,” White said.
The price: $14 million to $15 million.
The town also plans to widen Chandler Heights Road from Sossaman to Recker, a two-mile stretch with a price tag of $10 million to $12 million. Construction probably will begin next summer.