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(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
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ADOT: South Mountain Freeway will save 15 million hours of travel time annually

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

PHOENIX — A new freeway portion connecting the east and west sides of the Phoenix suburbs will save about 15 million hours of travel time annually, the Arizona Department of Transportation said.

The agency said the South Mountain Freeway — which will begin at Pecos Road and Interstate 10 and head around South Mountain before rejoining I-10 near 59th Avenue — will provide relief for a clogged I-10 and surface streets.

ADOT’s estimation includes time spent sitting in traffic at particularly heavy travel areas on I-10, such as the Broadway curve, Tempe and downtown Phoenix.

The freeway should cut down on drive time in an expansive Phoenix metro area. The agency estimated those heading to the West Valley from Chandler, Gilbert or Queen Creek should save about 25 minutes on average.

“The need for a high-speed, efficient transportation corridor linking the southeast Valley and the West Valley dates back to the 1980s, when regional transportation planners foresaw the tremendous growth that was projected to occur in the area,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said in a press release.

Opponents of the freeway are likely to disagree with ADOT’s findings. Prior to a lawsuit battle last year, Pat Lawlis with Protecting Arizona Resources and Children said the commute would only save drivers in the Ahwautkee area an average of one minute on their daily commute to downtown.

ADOT has refuted that claim.

ADOT said as many as 190,000 vehicles will use the South Mountain Freeway daily by 2035.

Construction on the new freeway began Monday.

The first phase of construction of the South Mountain Freeway is expected to take about four months.

“The work’s going to include widening the shoulders and extending the existing Loop 202 HOV lanes from Pecos Road near 48th Street all the way to the I-10/Loop 202 interchange,” ADOT spokesman Dustin Krugel said.

KTAR’s Bob McClay contributed to this report.

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