With a financial kick-start from Mesa, work on the next leg of State Route 24 is on track to begin this fall.
The Mesa City Council on May 4 approved an agreement with the Arizona Department of Transportation for construction of a freeway bridge over Ellsworth Road.
That will be the first link in extending the freeway from Ellsworth five miles east to Ironwood Road, a project that is expected to take about two years for completion.
Mesa’s agreement with the state requires the city to provide ADOT with $11.5 million for bridge construction, and $2.7 million for associated infrastructure improvements on surface streets that will connect with the freeway.
That does not, however, translate into a $14.2 million burden for city taxpayers.
Of that total, only $2.5 million comes from the city treasury; the rest is pass-through money that the state and Maricopa County have provided for transportation projects.
R.J. Zeder, Mesa’s transportation director, told the council on April 30 that the $5 million in county funds originally were slated for surface street improvements but that Mesa had decided the freeway project, serving fast-growing portions of the Southeast Valley, is more important.
ADOT actually refers to the new five-mile segment as an “interim” roadway.
The $260 million project will have bridges at Ellsworth and Mountain roads, but not where the freeway crosses what now are only the alignments of other major arterials.
Bridges at those streets, as well as projects to widen the road from its initial two lanes, are probably years in the future, depending on funding.
Also anticipated, but not scheduled, are extensions of the freeway deeper into Pinal County, where it perhaps would connect with a proposed north-south freeway from the East Valley to connect with Interstate 10 near Picacho Peak.
Mesa has long viewed SR24, also known as the Gateway Freeway, as vital to developing the city’s southeastern reaches.
The city issued $45 million in refundable bonds to accelerate construction of the first mile, which runs from Loop 202 to Ellsworth. That segment opened in May 2014, four years earlier than had been scheduled.