Frank Lloyd Wright work inspires freeway aesthetics

The future 40th Street traffic interchange of the South Mountain Freeway recently received its base paint, which eventually will be applied throughout the 22-mile corridor of the roadway that will provide a direct link between the East and West valleys.

The aesthetics of the South Mountain Freeway include designs celebrating some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s early experiments in desert architecture, as the architect had a camp called Ocotillo in the late 1920s in the area now known as Ahwatukee.

The Arizona Department of Transportation has partnered with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to design aesthetics for bridges, sound walls and other freeway elements honoring Wright’s early works in Arizona.

Approximately 160 gallons of paint, enough to cover the exterior of 13 homes, was needed to spray paint the 40th Street bridge. The individual accent paint, a reddish color that resembles an ocotillo plant’s red flower, will be seen on the retaining walls, abutments and bridge barriers, ADOT officials stated in a release.

Crews recently painted the future 40th Street traffic interchange of the South Mountain Freeway. (ADOT photo)

The base paint complements the color of South Mountain, the desert terrain and the area’s vegetation, according to Joseph Salazar, ADOT’s roadside development, project landscape and architecture coordinator.

“ADOT had a unique opportunity with this project to partner with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and use freeway aesthetics to tell a story by showing differences in land uses, land forms and history as you progress throughout the 22-mile corridor,” Mr. Salazar said.

“There are several elements, including the earth-tone base paint, that occur throughout the freeway corridor and serve to tie various aesthetic areas together in one project,” he said.

This base paint will be consistent throughout the freeway corridor, but there will be several accent paint colors, along with five distinctive aesthetic character areas, ADOT officials stated in the release.

The Ahwatukee Foothills/Cholla Ocotillo segment, for example, will feature desert plants and simple shapes based on the forms of native cholla and ocotillo plants, while aesthetics and landscaping in the Laveen Village/River Bank segment will speak to the area’s agricultural heritage.

The next bridges scheduled to be painted are the Roosevelt bridge in west Phoenix and the 17th Avenue overpass in Ahwatukee. These are expected to occur in the spring.

The South Mountain Freeway will provide a direct link between the East Valley and West Valley and an alternative to I-10 through downtown Phoenix.

Approved by Maricopa County voters in 1985 and again in 2004 as part of a comprehensive regional transportation plan, the South Mountain Freeway will complete the Loop 202 and Loop 101 freeway system in the Valley.

For more information on the South Mountain Freeway, visit

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