Why we drive on a parkway and other life-changing questions

By Doug Nick / ADOT Communications

Expressway BeginsHere at the ol’ ADOT Ranch, a bucolic slice of heaven somewhere near Sunflower, we were gazing at a map of Arizona the other day and it hit us that a whole lot of Arizonans come from someplace else. 

Duh. This is not news. 

For most, but not all, of us our birth certificate may be housed in a dusty file somewhere in Ohio, Illinois or some other state similarly blessed with too darn much snow. 

Because of this unassailable demographic reality, Arizona is a melting pot of terms; in other words, the words we use to identify common things. 

In Michigan, for example, a carbonated beverage is often called “pop." Whereas in Georgia, you get a Coke even if it’s really a root beer. And other states, people drink "soda."

What does this have to do with ADOT? Glad you asked. These idiosyncrasies extend to transportation and they have some newsworthiness as well. 

State Route 24For example, State Route 24 in the East Valley of the metro Phoenix area is also known as the Gateway Freeway connected to the Loop 202 Santan Freeway. Or, at least it will be when planned regional funding is available to add more lanes. But for now the new extension of SR 24 past Ellsworth Road will operate as an expressway. Now, some people call every freeway an “expressway” -- our friends in Michigan come to mind -- but in Arizona, there actually is a significant distinction. 

While freeways such as I-10 or Loop 101 are roadways with multiple lanes, limited access and travel either above or under surface streets, expressways have controlled intersections with some streets. And as noted above, typically this is done as a stopgap measure until the road can be upgraded to a full freeway. In fact, the SR 51 freeway began its existence as an expressway way back in the mid-1980s. 

(We’ll try not to muddy the waters any further by mentioning SR 51 was actually called a parkway for a while, but it was basically the same thing. We also define the difference between a freeway and a highway here. Does your brain hurt yet? Ours does…)

As you travel SR 24 you may win a few trivia bets by telling your friends you drove on both a freeway and expressway with the same name. If that’s not excitement, we don’t know what is. 

Yes, we need a life.