Loop 202 construction is poorly planned pain

Last August, I moved into an apartment complex just northwest of the intersection of Rural Road and the 202 Red Mountain Freeway. Because of work and girlfriends and school, my roommates and I have a consistent need for access to those roads.

Needless to say, the Loop 202 Widening Project has become the bane of my existence. It has turned a 15-minute drive to downtown Phoenix into an hour-long diversion through side streets. I have run into closed crosswalks several times on my way to class, turning a 10-minute environmentally-conscious bike ride along Rural into a 30-minute carbon-producing journey in my car on Mill Avenue. And god forbid I forgot to bring along six quarters on one of those occasions; those closed crosswalks have cost me $26 in parking tickets.

So far, I have unfairly directed my anger toward the construction workers, shaking my fist and giving them names like “Wild Bill” or “Jim Belushi.” That doesn’t seem to be doing much, so I decided to do some research.

After looking at the project Web site, I found the Loop 202 Widening Project is funded by money from Proposition 400, which authorizes a 20-year extension of a half-cent sales tax that goes to transportation projects in Maricopa County. No harm there. We all like safe roads without potholes, and half a penny to fix them doesn’t seem too outrageous.

The goal of the project? To add east- and west-bound lanes to the 202 in between the 51 freeway and the 101. For anyone who has seen Phoenix traffic at rush hour, this can’t be an entirely bad thing.

However, I do have a problem with how the project is being implemented. The project utilizes a “design-build” approach, which means that, to save time, they design the project as they build it. Sounds cheap. Which is fine if it actually saves time and produces an improved road with little public nuisance.

Only it’s not saving time. It has been going on since late 2008, and it was originally projected to go into the fall of 2010. That’s a long project already, and considering the frequent delays of public construction projects, it will likely miss its projected finish.

So far, it’s not producing a better road. I am absolutely in favor of providing Arizona’s beleaguered construction industry with more work, but this project seems like it is simply spinning its wheels. Construction continues at the access ramps at Rural, and in the meantime I haven’t seen an extra lane built anywhere.

Instead, we are stuck with one infuriating situation: closing the access ramps at all three streets at random times.

It’s been going on for months, it’s projected to go many more months, and the random openings and closings of the access ramps make me think the construction foremen are bipolar. Overall, it seems poorly planned and poorly managed. Please make it stop.

Ryan is a political science senior. Reach him at ryan.m.sweeney@asu.edu

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