Hunt Highway’s first phase garnering notice from business community

It’s been five months since construction on the first phase of Hunt Highway has been completed. Although it was only a 2-mile stretch from Empire Boulevard to Thompson Road, the completion of phase one has started a big interest from companies wanting to move their venture to San Tan Valley.

“Just by completing one section of this road it has opened the eyes of businesses from across the state and the country,” said Pinal County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Cheryl Chase. “It only shows you how desperately that road widening was really needed.”

Construction began on the phase one widening on Oct. 16, 2013 and was completed on Aug. 29 the following year.

“There was a lot riding on the successful completion of this first phase,” said Pinal County Public Works Director Louis Andersen. “Many people travel that road daily. We wanted to make sure we get that section done within the proposed time and within the proposed budget. In the end, the project was done a month early and $200,000 under budget. It was a win-win for everyone.”

The county received over $5 million in federal funding to construct the expansion. Pinal County added $2.5 million that included a required 5 percent match for the federal funding. Since the majority of the funds came from Washington D.C., the Arizona Department of Transportation oversaw the project.

After a competitive bidding process, the Tempe-based company SKANSKA came in 6.2 percent under the engineers estimate to construct the expansion.

“I was impressed that we were that far under budget,” said Chairwoman Chase. “Roads are not exactly cheap to build. After I saw the finished project, I can say to our residents — you got your money’s worth from this expansion. I’m hoping the other phases of widening are just as easy and under budget.”

In early January, the Pinal County Public Works Department began construction on phase two that will widen Hunt Highway from Thompson Road to Mountain Vista Boulevard. Construction is slated to last until September.

“Just the fact that the Pinal County Board of Supervisors placed Hunt Highway as a priority and had phase one completed showed a lot of businesses that this county is serious about bringing needed infrastructure to this area,” said Pinal County Economic Development Director Tim Kanavel. “I can tell you right now that some large retail operations, who were on the fence about moving here, are now making plans to bring their operations to San Tan Valley.”

Mr. Kanavel stated that the recent developments with larger retail operations looking to move to San Tan Valley, because of the Hunt Highway widening, shows a direct correlation between economic development and good infrastructure like roads and public services.

“Before the phase one widening, you had 80,000 to 90,000 people without a lot of services,” Mr. Kanavel said. “A company could not justify bringing their operations here if it was troublesome to get to their stores. Now we are seeing people lining up to come here.”

In December 2014, the board of supervisors approved a bond that will finance the widening of Hunt Highway up to Arizona Farms Road. A timeline for completion is still being developed.

Editor’s note: Joe Pyritz is interim communications director for Pinal County.

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