PHOENIX -- Folks in the east Valley got a chance to walk, bike and skate along the first stretch of State Route 24, the Gateway Freeway, which is nearing completion in Mesa.
Before the mile-long segment of SR 24 between Loop 202 (Santan Freeway) and Ellsworth Road is finished early next month, the Arizona Department of Transportation and City of Mesa decided to host an "Open House" celebration on the freeway from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
Community members and visitors were invited to come check out the Gateway Freeway and get an up-close look at the interchange, which includes elevated ramps providing direct connections with Loop 202.
Governor Jan Brewer, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, ADOT Director John Halikowski and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Authority Executive Director Jane Morris were all invited to take part in Tuesday's ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The new section of State Route 24 will provide a direct connection between the Santan Freeway and Ellsworth Road, improving access to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and other local business and housing developments. Businesses in the area hope the new road will boost traffic and increase business.
Construction of the $73 million project began in March 2012. The City of Mesa accelerated the start of construction by several years through a transportation-bonding program.
"This project really is a down payment on the future," says Doug Nintzel with ADOT. "This is about, even decades from now, what this will represent. You have to start somewhere and the city of Mesa wanted to start here."