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Publication: East Valley Tribune; Date: 04/13/2004

Freeway edges eastward
Work starts on new Loop 202 leg in northeast Mesa


Work has started on a new segment of East Valley free way that will draw businesses to northeast Mesa and ease trips to recreation areas.

The newest Red Mountain Freeway segment of Loop 202 is under construction from Higley to Power roads, a $22.8 million section that should open by June 2005.

The freeway now ends at Higley.

The freeway?s completion will give drivers a more direct route to Saguaro Lake, the Salt River and other pop ular weekend spots without having to take Power Road north from U.S. 60, said Matt Burdick, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Transportation. Power Road turns into Bush Highway north of Mesa.

The freeway also will pro vide important access for major Mesa residential areas, including Red Mountain Ranch and Las Sendas.

The freeway also should bring employers, stores and restaurants to the vicinity, said Mesa Councilman Rex Griswold, District 5.

He said the freeway helped to attract a Kohl?s department store and a Starbucks to northeast Mesa. More businesses are coming, he said, as supermarkets, restaurants and other businesses scout locations along the freeway.

"People for a long time in that area wanted nicer shops," Griswold said. "The freeway is encouraging more businesses."

Mesa expects this part of the city to become a major employment hub.

Just one planned center, Longbow Business Park, is expected to house businesses that will employ 7,000 work ers, Griswold said.

Construction crews have been on the freeway?s path for several weeks.

More significant work began Monday with the open ing of a construction bypass where Recker Road inter sects Loop 202, allowing con struction of a bridge for Recker over the freeway.

Work also has started on berms and walls to dull noise from construction and future traffic.

The freeway will run below grade near Higley and slowly rise as it nears Power Road. The eastern end will have the tallest walls and berms, Burdick said.

ADOT has done a better job planning this freeway than some other sections of Loop 202, Griswold said, sug gesting that ADOT didn?t do enough to block noise in west Mesa.

Neighbors had requested tall walls and berms, as well as an interchange at Power that pushed exit ramps away from houses.

The original plan put one ramp within about 15 feet of a backyard fence.

ADOT also asked resi dents if they wanted shorter sound walls to keep views of Red Mountain, Burdick said.

But the agency stuck with plans to build 15- to 20-foot walls after hearing residents? other concerns.

"The majority of people, as you can imagine, wanted the maximum height they could get for noise protec tion," Burdick said.

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