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(Jim Cross/KTAR Photo)

PHOENIX -- The ground broke Monday on a new project that will open up and connect travel in the south Valley.

The Broadway Road/Avenida Rio Salado street improvement project will include new sidewalks, bike lanes, landscaping and street lighting from Seventh Street to 51st Avenue.

The project includes intersection improvements and roadway widening, as well. The crown jewel of the project is Broadway, which will be extended from 43rd to 51st Avenue. Right now, that area is nothing but a mile-long stretch of dirt and rock.

"It will be a full three lanes in each direction with a median, along the lines of what you see on Baseline," said Mark Glock, deputy street transportation director.

City councilwoman Kate Gallego said the eventual goal is to tie in the new Broadway with the future South Mountain Freeway Loop 202. She said this project will really open up travel in the South Valley.

"This will drive economic development," Gallego said. "Businesses will be able to get where they're going more quickly [and] that means dollars."

The new and improved Broadway will also take some of the load off other roads like Baseline, Southern, Buckeye and Lower Buckeye, which are congested during peak traffic hours.

The $55 million in federal dollars Phoenix received will help pay for the 30-month project. The remaining $25 million will be funded with revenue from the state gas tax.

Jim Cross, Reporter

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