The city of Goodyear has taken a major leap in its long-awaited Sonoran Valley Parkway, which will eventually bridge the northern and southern ends of the city.
One month after the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published an environmental impact statement for the project, the federal agency has signed a record of decision saying it plans to grant Goodyear a right of way for the project.
The 15-mile roadway will be 250 feet wide and consist of two to six lanes connecting Rainbow Valley Road to the community of Mobile and State Route 238.
An initial phase, expected to accommodate around 24,000 vehicles per day, will consist of one lane in either direction and include a temporary, 20-foot wide construction access road; no u-turn crossovers and no median.
Room will be left for up to four additional lanes, though if pursued BLM would need to conduct additional environmental review and authorize the expansion.
Despite having been in the works for more than a decade, residents likely won’t get the new route anytime soon, however, as the city is searching for a new development and funding partner, according to long range planner Joe Schmitz.
According to Schmitz, Goodyear annexed the Mobile area in 2007. The city filed the right-of-way application the following year.
A developer, Montage Holdings, owned 10,000 acres in the area and partnered with the city for a master-planned community, Amaranth, as well as the eventual roadway. With the economic downturn, however, the city lost its partner — and with it the means to construct the roadway.
“We had annexed the property and made a decision to carry on with the right-of-way application because we knew that some day we would need a roadway connection from the northern part of Goodyear to the newly annexed southern part in the vicinity of Mobile,” Schmitz explained.
The roadway is intended to improve emergency response times, modernize infrastructure, support economic development and job growth, and increase access to recreational opportunities on public lands, according to BLM.
“This project will improve emergency response times, which means lives will be saved,” Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Joe Balash said in a statement. “Additionally, the community will enjoy increased access to recreation and position the city of Goodyear for economic success well into the future.”
Although BLM has completed its final environmental impact statement and signified its intent to grant a right of way, the city cannot begin construction. Rather, the record of decision serves as just another step in a lengthy process.
According to the record of decision, the city must provide an updated plan of development that follows the BLM-selected alternative design as well as meet various other pre-construction requirements.
BLM Phoenix District Manager Leon Thomas said there is no set timeline for when the right-of-way grant will actually be issued. BLM will move forward when Goodyear’s plan of development is complete, as long as it meets the requirements of the record of decision.
Schmitz noted that the BLM-selected alternative is mostly in line with Goodyear’s initial proposal for the roadway.
But according to the record of decision, “The BLM Selected Alternative offers the shortest, most efficient and direct route, avoids known historic and cultural resources, and will allow for better management opportunities for vehicle entry into the public lands.”
Per the BLM-selected alternative, the roadway would cross approximately 10 miles of BLM-administered land, 1 mile of Arizona State Land Department (ASLD) land and 4 miles of private land.
Because of this, right-of-way acquisitions are also required for the ASLD and private lands before Goodyear can progress with the development.
Schmitz noted preliminary phase one construction costs are estimated at $45 million.
But with a development partner still needed and no funding allotted yet for further right-of-way acquisitions, it’s looking like quite some time will pass before residents see any dirt turning.
And when construction does eventually begin, according to BLM, the first phase is estimated to take 32 months.
“At this point in time, if we had a developer show up on our doorstep tomorrow, it would probably be a good five years before you would see any indication of construction,” Schmitz added. “And that’s probably being a little optimistic.”
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