$5.49 million roadwork project nearing completion in downtown Queen Creek

Construction to widen and realign Ocotillo Road from Ellsworth Loop Road to Heritage Loop Road is on track to be completed on budget and on time, says Queen Creek Public Works Manager Troy White, with town staff anticipating work to be finished in June. Above, drivers have learned to navigate the construction tape and temporary barriers at the intersection of Ocotillo and Ellsworth roads. In addition to new streetlights, seen above, and an enhanced traffic signal, the new intersection will have a seal coat applied to the crosswalk surface in all four directions that should reduce heat coming off the asphalt by about 15 degrees, a first for Queen Creek, Mr. White said. (Independent Newspapers/Arianna Grainey)

 

Hang in there, Queen Creek drivers. Work to improve the intersection of Ellsworth and Ocotillo roads and nearby roadways is in its final stages, according to the town staff member overseeing the project.

The $5.49 million project is on track to come in on budget and on time, Troy White, the town of Queen Creek’s public works director, said during an interview.

“We’re pretty much done with the tough stuff,” he said.

The town expects to complete the project in June, Constance Halonen-Wilson, the town’s public information officer, said during an interview.

Overall, the work has gone smoothly, but it has not been without challenges, Mr. White said.
“As Mohamed (Youssef, the town’s traffic engineer) says, ‘Construction on a roadway is like open heart surgery; there’s nothing pretty about it and it’s a major inconvenience.’ But considering the open heart surgery we’re doing in our town, it’s going pretty smoothly,” Mr. White said.

Work began in September 2015. That is when utilities such as the Salt River Project overhead facilities and Southwest Gas lines along the .5-mile stretch of Ocotillo Road were relocated, Mr. White said.

For the most part, he said, drivers did not experience any delays.

Above-ground construction began July 18, with the town posting updates about traffic lane shifts and closures on its website — www.queencreek.org — and social media sites.

It began about a month after members of the Queen Creek Town Council on June 15 voted 6-0 to approve a construction services contract not to exceed $5,494,540 with Blucor Contracting for TOQC Project No. A002 and its necessary budget adjustments.

The improvements should provide the town’s expected level of service for traffic for the next 10 years, Mr. White said.

The overall project includes widening and realigning Ocotillo Road from “loop to loop” — between Ellsworth Loop and Heritage Loop roads — to improve traffic circulation.

New features

The centerpiece is a new intersection with an enhanced traffic signal at Ocotillo and Ellsworth roads. The intersection includes a “cool” feature, Mr. White said.

A seal coat applied to the crosswalk surface in all four directions should reduce heat coming off the asphalt by about 15 degrees, a first for Queen Creek, he said.

“So in the middle of summer it won’t be so hot walking across the pavement. It reduces the heat island effect,” Mr. White said.

The project also includes widening Ocotillo Road from two lanes to four lanes with a center turn lane, widening sidewalks and adding green bike lanes.

“The green bike lanes are going in to separate the bike lanes from travel lanes. They look really, really good,” Mr. White said.

Sidewalks in the area also have been widened in accordance with Queen Creek’s goal of a walkable downtown area, the public works manager said.

The project also includes relocating the overhead electric on Ocotillo Road to underground and the installation of waterline in Ocotillo and Ellsworth roads, south to approximately Serrano’s Mexican Restaurant, 22701 S. Ellsworth Road, according to the project page on the town’s website: http://queencreek.org/departments/public-works/capital-improvement-programs/ocotillo-road-from-ellsworth-loop-to-heritage-loop-roads.

Mr. White said there are no plans to widen Ellsworth Road south of Ocotillo in the foreseeable future.

In addition, he said he doesn’t expect the improved roadways to increase traffic through Queen Creek by much.

“What it will do is make it more efficient for traffic that hits that intersection,” he said. “Traffic will go where it goes. There will always be more due to growth. But it follows the path of least resistance. People will go where they can save two minutes. Most are going to State Route 24.”

Something unexpected

Despite all the digging that has taken place during the road construction, the crew has encountered only one major surprise.

“In the intersection of Ocotillo and Ellsworth, there was a really old septic. It was made out of brick and clay; it was really, really old,” Mr. White said. “It was kind of cool to look at.”

He said a group was hired to assess any potential environmental damage; its report came back clean.
Mr. White said he wasn’t sure when the septic tank was installed.

“It would have been good to do an analysis on it, but we didn’t, but it had been there for a long while,” he said.

New pocket park

The project also includes the construction of a pocket park on the northwest corner of Ocotillo and Ellsworth roads at a cost of $434,445.

Elements in the park focus on the town’s history. They include a clock tower to which a plaque honoring the town’s founders will be attached, a water feature, sitting walls, an open turf area and site lighting, Mr. White said.

The clock will not be installed in the tower until right before the parklet opens to avoid damage that could be caused by heavy equipment during construction, Mr. White said.

The town was accepting submissions to name the park through April 3, Ms. Halonen-Wilson said.

She said her department received about 30 entries on March 20, the first day it was announced.

All eligible names will be provided to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee at its April 11 meeting. The committee’s recommended name will be provided to the Queen Creek Town Council for consideration at its April 19 meeting.

Additional closures

There is one remaining road closure for the project, barring any unforeseen issues, that has not been scheduled. It is to apply the coated, stamped asphalt, Ms. Halonen-Wilson said.

The closure will last less than one day, Mr. White said.

Local business

Mr. White said businesses in the construction zone have been very cooperative. He said business owners were more vocal during the design stages of the project — when they did not know what to expect — than during the actual year of construction.

“There were not a lot of complaints, although we would hear from some business owners, ‘hey, today was really difficult,’ but I tell you the business owners were fantastic to work with,” Mr. White said.

To help mitigate the potential loss of business, he said, the town provided access to the businesses in the construction zone, providing them with street signs and loosening some zoning restrictions regarding signage to allow them to post “open for business” banners and other related signs.

The businesses also were notified about the town’s Shop the QC program, Ms. Halonen-Wilson said.

Participating businesses in the free program receive marketing and promotional support through the town’s social media channels, a listing on the town’s website and opportunities to participate in town-sponsored and town-supported promotional campaigns, according to queencreek.org/shoptheQC.

For more details about the project, call the town’s project hotline at 480-898-4090.

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