Local leaders work to improve travel corridor near development hotbed

The city of Surprise and the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) are planning a major transportation study to improve travel along Grand Avenue, a highway that runs across the West Valley from downtown Phoenix to rural areas northwest of Surprise.

The new study will assess current and future travel for an 18-mile stretch of Grand Avenue from the Loop 303 up north to the State Route 74 — an area that’s expected to see substantial growth over the next few decades.

On Oct. 17, Surprise City Council plans to vote on an intergovernmental agreement with MAG to provide $45,000 in financial assistance for the study. The estimated overall cost of the study is $695,000, which will mostly be funded by MAG.

The study will help develop a program with improvements for safety and to support planned development, according to city documents. The report will be completed through a MAG contract by a consultant and is expected to be completed by June 2025.

Grand Avenue has become a significant source of congestion and accidents as the northwest part of the Valley has grown quickly in the past 20 years, especially around the Loop 303 and 163rd Avenue.

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At the same time, the city said more than 70 individual development projects are planned around Grand Avenue. Local leaders believe the corridor does not currently have the infrastructure needed to support the growth.

“It is unlikely that Grand Avenue could function as the sole access to all of this new growth. From a transportation planning perspective, planning for future improvements to Grand Avenue alone will be inadequate,” the agreement between MAG and the city of Surprise said. “It is essential that this be done concurrently with planning the arterial streets, parkways and highways serving the entire study area and analyzing how future connections to the [Loop] 303 may improve access to the overall study area.”

Thousands of homes are planned while BNSF Railway Co. has moved forward with plans to build a rail and logistics center across 4,000 acres north of Grand Avenue in the Wittmann area. The project could bring 30 million square feet of industrial space and thousands of jobs to the area.

The city of Surprise has also seen an increase in retail and industrial development and expects the growth to push farther northwest.

This year, about $4.5 million in the fiscal year 2024 state budget was also allocated toward improving the Loop 303 and Grand Avenue interchange to alleviate some congestion.

Maricopa County updating plans for northwest Valley

Separately, Maricopa County is updating its White Tank Grand Avenue plan to reflect the changes and projected growth in the same area, or the far northwest part of the Valley. The plan helps guide growth and development.

The county’s White Tank plan area is set to comprise 727 square miles, or 465,280 acres generally bound by South Vulture Mine Road and the city of Buckeye to the west, the city of Peoria to the east, Maricopa County’s boundary to the north and the White Tank mountains and Interstate 10 to the south.

By 2050, the population within the White Tanks Grand Avenue area is expected to more than double to nearly 875,000, up from 391,902 residents in 2020. The county’s plan area also includes the same 18-mile stretch of Grand Avenue as the planned MAG and city of Surprise transportation analysis.

The White Tanks Grand Avenue plan area also had 22,000 crashes from 2017 through 2022 with an average of 3,600 accidents per year, according to a Maricopa County report published in July 2023.

During this same time period, the area had nearly 400 fatal crashes, according to the report, which said that a high concentration of serious and fatal crashes occur on the Loop 303, Bell Road and Grand Avenue.

Maricopa County also estimates that demand for industrial land in this area will total about 1,580 acres through 2030.

The White Tank Grand Avenue plan is expected to be finalized by the end of 2023, according to the county’s timeline. Residents can fill out a questionnaire about the area online here.


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