Transportation Master Plan to serve as road map for next 20 years in Queen Creek

Would residents like a commuter rail in Queen Creek? More bike paths? Improved freeway access?
Local citizens will have an opportunity to have their opinions heard as part of a new Transportation Master Plan that will be prepared for the town.
At their May 6 meeting, members of the Queen Creek Town Council unanimously approved a contract not to exceed $164,500 with Tempe-based architectural and engineering services firm Ayres Associates to prepare the plan.
The latter will provide a guideline for transportation-related policies and capital projects within the town, according to documents in the council’s meeting packet for that night.
It will include directions on resolving transportation-related issues such as how it directly and indirectly affects economic development. It will include an analysis of land use, congestion, community lifestyle and other factors, according to the packet. It will build on the town’s General Plan, Intersection and Circulation Plan, Arterial Street Plan and plans from the Maricopa County Department of Transportation, Maricopa Association of Governments and adjoining communities, according to the packet.
MAG is a council of governments that serves as the regional agency for the metropolitan Phoenix area, according to its website: www.azmag.gov.
The plan will review the town’s projected transportation needs for the next 20 years, Queen Creek Traffic Engineer Mohamed Youssef said during an interview.
It could help determine if and how to expand State Route 24 eastward from Ellsworth Road toward Ironwood Drive and whether to connect SR24 with the North-South Corridor ADOT is researching to provide an alternate route from the east Valley to Tucson, Mr. Youssef said.
“We want to give residents the opportunity to choose their future,” Mr. Youssef said. “We want to have a plan in place and not just be reactive.”
The plan will help the town meet the needs of its growing population, Mr. Youssef said during his presentation to the council. The U.S. Census Bureau in 2013 reported Queen Creek’s population as 29,673. In June of that year, MAG projected Queen Creek’s population would double to 67,800 by 2030 and increase to 73,400 by 2040, according to the presentation. The plan will help the community manage growth while maintaining Queen Creek’s unique rural character; it also will help ensure long-term employment opportunities, according to the council packet.
During the council meeting, Councilman Robin Benning said he wanted to make sure the plan will address more than just moving volumes of traffic, he said on the video of the meeting. He asked Mr. Youssef for reassurance that the plan will provide people with transit options other than just vehicular choices.
“What we want is a safe community,” he said on the video.
Mr. Youssef said on the video the town will be looking at a variety of transit options, such as bike lanes and commuter rail, over the next two decades.
The meeting video can be found on the town’s website.
Having a plan can also give the town an advantage when applying for funding for future capital improvement projects from organizations such as MAG, Mr. Youssef said.
Funding requests require an explanation of why the money is needed; a Transportation Master Plan backs up the explanation with research and implementation as well as how the money would be used, he said.
Ayres Associates is familiar with the transportation needs of the far east Valley, Mr. Youssef said.
In October, Ayres completed a TMP for the town of Gilbert. Prior to that, the company produced plans for the communities of Chandler, Mesa and Tempe, Dan Hartig, project manager with Ayres Associates, said during a phone interview.
Mr. Hartig said he expected to start his research by late June; he said the studies typically take a year to complete.
He expected to conduct two public meetings, one about midway through the process to obtain base information from residents and town staff, and another toward the end to review information in a preliminary plan, he said.
He also plans to conduct an online survey, a tool he said was successful in obtaining input from Gilbert residents.
“Do people want more bicycle paths or bus routes? We want to get a general consensus of the public,” said Mr. Hartig, who said he has been involved in the information-research industry for about 40 years. “If the town staff has other ideas of things we may do, we will try to incorporate those as well. The philosophy has changed over the years about doing these studies. About 10-15 years ago, we went along doing the basic traffic plan. Now there is much more interest in public feedback. The plans are not produced in a vacuum.”
“Once we’ve identified what the plan should look like, then we develop an implementation plan, usually in five-year increments over that 20-year period,” he said.
He also will refer to a commuter rail system study from the Arizona Department of Transportation, that could provide stops in Queen Creek, as well as other transit options.
“Our biggest challenge is that we’re not just focusing on streets. The fact is it’s a master plan. Queen Creek is relatively young in that process,” Mr. Hartig said.
Queen Creek’s contract with Ayres also calls for the research firm to develop and implement a strategy with which to educate the public and business community about the plan, according to the council packet. Ayres reviews on a regular basis population and employment information gathered by MAG and adjusts its plans when needed, Mr. Hartig said.
“This will be a dynamic plan that will be constantly updated. It will help us determine how we would like to have the town grow over the next 20 years,” Mr. Youssef said. “It will give residents the opportunity to determine their future.”
For more information, visit the town’s website.

News Editor Wendy Miller can be contacted at 480-982-7799 and via e-mail at qcnews@newszap.com, or follow her on Twitter @WendyNewszap123.

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