By Zach Richter Southeast Valley Ledger
In the fall of 2007, Pinal County took the first steps required to begin the process of widening Hunt Hwy. Now, nearly five years later, the County has finally received the project’s Environmental Clearance and set a tentative date to begin construction on Phase I of the project on Dec. 3, 2012.
Phase I includes a 1.79-mile stretch of road between Empire Blvd and Thompson Rd. Proposed improvements included a five-lane roadway section, a raised median, drainage improvements and the installation of a traffic signal at Thompson Rd.
For a detailed breakdown of the remaining steps in Phase I of the project, the Southeast Valley Ledger contacted Assistant County Manager for Development Services Greg Stanley via email who explained that currently the last of the required right of way (ROW) acquisitions are being made.
“We are also getting utilities relocated and getting utility sign offs,” he pointed out. “Once that is done, ADOT will take over the administration of the project. They will bid and administer the construction.”
While future phases of the project do not yet include a timeline, Stanley is hopeful that they will move more quickly once started.
“The environmental clearance covers the second phase of the project as well, so that should save time getting it done if federal funds are used for that portion,” he wrote. This is a process dictated by Federal Highways and administered by ADOT for any projects that involve federal funds. Environmental Clearance involves a check of all the categories covered by the National Environmental Policy Act.”
Stanley pointed out that for Phase I, the County submitted the initial environmental reports to ADOT in March 2010 and received the final sign off in June of 2012.
“Hopefully we will be able to save and use local funds on future phases – which eliminates the time it takes to get a project out to bid,” Stanley continued. “Local procurement is much simpler.”
Once started construction is expected to last 300 days but Stanley pointed out that the County has already taken steps to minimize the inconvenience to commuters.
“The County paved Empire Road through to Gary in anticipation of this project so a lot of the traffic will be able to use that as a detour,” he explained. “We also completed the work at the intersection of Empire/Ellsworth/Hunt in advance…getting some of the worst out of the way up front as that intersection had to be completely torn apart to install drainage.”
Most of all, Stanley made it clear that the County is as anxious as residents to see the Hunt Hwy expansion finally begin. “Pinal County staff wants this done as much as the residents do,” he enthused. “Our project manager, team working to gather ROW and coordinate utility relocations and the contract engineers are anxious to see construction under way.”
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