Planning for the infrastructure needs of a rapidly growing municipality like Queen Creek can be challenging.
But in the early 2000s, city officials worked with Pinal and Maricopa county transportation planners to try to predict what a small but promising corner of southeast Queen Creek would look like in 2020.
This little corner is growing faster than even the experts could have imagined, and Queen Creek officials are revising their predictions.
The 27 square mile block of land is bordered by Ray, Combs, Meridian and Schnepf roads and includes the proposed LG Energy Solutions battery plant, State Route 24 extension and Pinal Parkway as well as homes and roads connection.
“When an area experiences a burst of growth, we do what’s called a small area transportation study,” said Mohamed Youssef, the city’s director of public works. “It’s a targeted study in a certain area to see what’s going on there and how we can plan better transportation systems to accommodate the growth that’s happening in the area.”
Queen Creek is focused on this area and its infrastructure needs to keep up with projected job growth, in part because this little block of land was always going to be something special.
SR 24 was meant to bring that kind of growth. But now, partly because of the LG factory, this block of Queen Creek is expected to create at least 7,500 jobs by 2030, a growth rate of 530%.
Add the two miles surrounding the smaller focus area, and that job projection jumps to 9,500, for an overall growth rate of 150%, according to city data.
There are around 100,000 people living in this growth zone, but given projections there will be triple that number by 2030.
“So it’s like twice the San Tan Valley in terms of population growth,” Youssef said. “The job growth there is also huge.”
Perhaps the most publicized part of this study concerns the impact that the opening of the SR 24 and the extension of the Pinal promenade will have on the fluidity of traffic. The two freeways will combine to give drivers an option other than surface streets to access the Loop 202 freeway system.
“You don’t want to deal with traffic lights and a road network that could be congested with access and shopping and all that,” Youssef said, explaining:
“You will definitely take the parkway to SR 24 on the freeway and that will relieve traffic right now on the existing road network.”
The small study area will eventually be incorporated into the city’s transportation master plan.
The money to amend this little regional plan is minimal. This is an intergovernmental agreement with Pinal County and will not exceed $40,400, but it is an important part of the methodical process to stay focused on future infrastructure needs.
“This council is committed to making transportation a top priority,” said Mayor-elect Julia Wheatley.
But overall, Queen Creek’s transportation budget dwarfs any other segment of the city’s $730 million spending plan, 73% of which is for capital improvement projects. Of this amount, a quarter is spent on roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure.
The numbers might change over time, but for the foreseeable future the demand for infrastructure and the need to stay ahead of the game won’t.
“Planning is a very important part of development,” Youssef said. “We don’t want to plan badly and then build badly.”
“It will change the flow of traffic in the area.”