COOLIDGE — City officials are anxiously watching progress on the North-South Corridor freeway/parkway, thinking that it will have wide economic impacts for the city.
The North-South Corridor, which would span more than 50 miles between U.S. 60 in Apache Junction and Interstate 10 in Eloy, passes through Coolidge, Florence and portions of unincorporated Pinal County along the way, is likely years off.
Still, at the Oct. 6 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, the proposed freeway was brought up under discussion of a site plan for a solar project.
Coolidge City Manager Rick Miller does not think of the plan as a pie-in-the-sky possibility. But he believes it would first be more of a parkway than a freeway that runs through Coolidge.
Economic Development Services Director Gilbert Lopez said the route would be extremely important for the city, but how it would be funded is the bigger question. He said the corridor has been talked about for several years.
Miller said if this freeway is ever built it would take Coolidge residents just 20 minutes to reach the Valley when traveling at typical freeway speeds.
From an economic side with historical aspects, the North-South Corridor would result in more retail, commercial development, hotels and restaurants for Coolidge and other locations along the route.
“No one can sit home and predict when it will happen,” he said. "Funding questions still need to be answered.”
He said until the courts make a ruling on the legality of the voter-approved Pinal County Transportation Authority tax, there will be no funding, but added $70 million has been set aside for road improvements. Another possibility, he said, would be for voters to approve a half-cent sales tax with matching grants.
“I don’t think we will see a freeway for quite some time, but rights of way are being acquired,” Miller said.
The city manager added that while a freeway probably would not happen for a long time, a parkway with two lanes in each direction is much more likely.
Miller said there is no question the corridor is needed with the East Valley and Pinal County growing, causing bottlenecks on Interstate 10.
Manufacturing jobs and large projects are surging, and more people will look for housing and businesses will look at the area to determine if there is a skilled workforce in place, which will only increase the traffic.
“If you want to see continued growth you have to have the population (that the corridor will bring),” he said. “We want a balance, and Valley Farms is such an area.”
That balance might continue to include agricultural lands and farming operations.
Miller said that when the Arizona Department of Transportation chose to have Interstate 10 run alongside Casa Grande, that city started to grow quickly.
“The beautiful thing is the city can determine its future,” Miller said. “This corridor would mean a lot to the city of Coolidge.”
The study also incorporates the proposed extension of State Route 24 from Ironwood Drive to the North-South Corridor.
ADOT is considering all funding options to move the North-South Corridor through the study process and eventually to construction.