Tags Articles tagged with "SR 347"

SR 347

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

State Route 347 cannot be shut down during construction, and no property access can be cut off.

Arizona Department of Transportation hosted an informational meeting Wednesday to update residents on the upcoming overpass project. ADOT and consulting firm EPS answered concerns about the project itself and the impact of construction.

The project builds an overpass over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks at State Route 347. Construction is expected to begin in late fall.

Project engineer Elijah Williams, a familiar face at these meetings for years, is president of EPS, which was hired by ADOT to design the overpass. He presented the update to a packed board room at the Maricopa Unified School District.

Williams said EPS will recommend to the construction contractor the timeline for putting the project together. That involves not only the overpass but also new street alignments north and south of the railroad tracks. See ADOT 3D video models

“These bridges, they’re the things that take the longest to build. So they’re going to want to start on those early and not want to get into disrupting traffic for as long as they can avoid it,” Williams said.

Honeycutt Avenue, next to Maricopa High School, will be realigned, connecting with State Route 347 a little farther southeast than its current intersection. More extensively, Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway will be realigned to take traffic north to Honeycutt Road by utilizing a realigned Plainview Street next to MUSD’s district office and transportation department.

A traffic signal will be installed at the intersection of Honeycutt Road and Plainview Street. The traffic signal currently at SR 347 and Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway will be moved to SR 347 and Honeycutt Road.

Part of the current SR 347, where it passes long-time business like Headquarters and NAPA, will remain in place, passing under the new overpass, and become the access to eastbound Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.

On SR 347 itself, there will be three lanes both directions between Edison Road and the current alignment at Desert Cedars/Alterra Parkway south of the First Baptist Church.

Though endangered in the early designs of the overpass, the church, Amtrak station and NAPA Auto Parts will not have to move.

The project is estimated to cost $55 million. Maricopa’s contribution to that is just short of $14 million. The city approved an intergovernmental agreement with ADOT on Tuesday for the construction of the overpass.

Bob Marsh, a resident of Desert Cedars, said when currently-empty, commercial property south of the tracks is finally developed, new access points may need to be cut into SR 347. Those vacant parcels will be on both sides of the alignment.

Law enforcement officers were watching for speedy drivers on SR 347 Tuesday.

A multi-agency effort led by Pinal County Sheriff’s Office handed out speeding tickets to scores of drivers on State Route 347 Tuesday.

“The department is focusing on this area at the request of DPS and Gila River Police Department. There have been numerous fatal collisions on that roadway this year,” PCSO spokesperson Navideh Forghani said in a statement.

According to PCSO, 129 people were stopped for speeding violations and one was stopped for running a red light. There were also three misdemeanor arrests.

The speed detail is the fourth organized by PCSO in the county. It came on the heels of DPS-led traffic detail last week that cited 88 drivers for speeding.

Agencies involved in Tuesday’s effort were PCSO, DPS, Maricopa Police Department and Casa Grande Police Department.

Southbound traffic on SR 347 backed up this morning after a fatal accident at Casa Blanca Road. Photo by Mason Callejas

A fatality on State Route 347 continues to keep the southbound lanes closed as Gila River Police Department and the Arizona Department of Public Safety investigate.

According to GRPD Detective Manuel Duarte, one car back-ended another car stopped at the light at the intersection with Casa Blanca Road at around 4:20 a.m.

“When the at-fault driver exited his vehicle, he was struck by a third vehicle,” Duarte said.

The man, who has not been publicly identified, was taken to Chandler Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced deceased.

Southbound traffic has been diverted onto Riggs Road east to Interstate 10. Maricopa-bound traffic has been requested to drive to Casa Grande to take Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway into town.

Though northbound lanes of SR 347 have remained open, traffic was very slow during rush hour.

DPS spokesman Trooper Kameron Lee said his department turned the investigation over to GRPD because a tribal member was involved in the accident. DPS is acting as an assisting agency.

A serious injury, multiple-vehicle crash has blocked the northbound lanes of State Route 347, according to the Department of Public Safety.

The accident is described as a rollover.

The collision was about three miles north of Maricopa, just north of Casa Blanca Road.

Drivers heading north are being directed onto Casa Blanca to Interstate 10.

The southbound lanes are open, but traffic is moving slowly and backup is lengthy while first responders provide assistance on the scene.

There is no estimated time to reopen the northbound lanes, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

 

 

A seven-mile stretch of State Route 347 south of Interstate 10 will be narrowed to one lane in each direction on Saturday, Oct. 8, for pavement work.

The Arizona Department of Transportation recommends drivers allow extra travel time and use caution when approaching and traveling through the work zone.

SR 347 will be narrowed to one lane in each direction in an area between Riggs and Casa Blanca roads from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Similar work and restrictions also are scheduled in the same area on Saturday, Oct. 15.

Highway conditions are available via ADOT’s Travel Information site at az511.gov or by calling 511.

Councilmember Nancy Smith

By Nancy Smith

Gridlock on SR 347! Yes, that’s what I said. We who live in Maricopa need to be aware of the fact that a study in late 2015, the Maricopa Area Transportation Plan-Phase I, indicated that SR 347 was going to experience ‘significant congestion’ by 2017, deteriorating to ‘Roadway Facility Failure’ by 2028 if nothing is done to mitigate the traffic problem. Furthermore, the study found that with a third lane added in each direction between north Maricopa City Limits and I-10, SR 347 could potentially avoid ‘significant congestion’ until 2023.

Shortly after hearing that during a city council meeting I put a project on the council project list called ‘Get Ahead of SR347 GRIDLOCK.” Later, I met a man who serves on the Wild Horse Pass Development Authority for the Gila River Indian Community and asked if he, I and our city manager could meet to discuss this study. We met, and all agreed this is a problem that will need a solution as soon as possible. This is a serious concern for me and I’m sure for most residents who use SR 347 to get to work every weekday.

Recently, a city council candidate published his concerns regarding voter support of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA). He states, “I have spoken with engineers, ADOT representatives, and former City employees about the project.” While I respect his concerns and questions, I have a concern that he spoke to groups to gain information without speaking with the two groups that have the most recent information and have been working the scope, timeline, partners, and studies that have already begun.

With the exception of ADOT, none of his other sources has any insight in the work already completed for this project. He should have spoken with the originators of the RTA, Pinal County, and he most definitely should have spoken with the City of Maricopa Planning Division to gain knowledge on how they’ve been working this project. These two, City of Maricopa and Pinal County, have the most recent information available to help make an informed decision. Our city transportation planner and Planning Division, along with the consultant who identified the looming traffic problems on SR 347, take this seriously and have been actively working to organize and take action with national standards in planning processes and establishing the right partnerships.

My opponent says, “If elected, one of my priorities will be working with the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), Pinal County, Gila River Indian Community (GRIC), Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) and others to improve (widen) SR 347…” and he says “The time to begin planning for expansion and improvements is now.” Again, the partnerships have been established and the planning for expansion and improvements has already begun!

I feel it is very important to keep the voters informed of the most recent information on this project. Had my opponent spoken with any of these organizations and/or the City of Maricopa Planning Division he would have found out that these discussions and partnerships are already taking place. He would have also found out that his concerns are being addressed.

As an example, it is true that the ADOT’s Roadway Design Guidelines only allow for certain conditions on projects. The evaluation of these conditions happens during the design phase of the project, which would be paid for with the revenue generated from the RTA. This is a very expensive phase of the project and one that the City of Maricopa would not want to fund out of our Capital Improvement funds. The design phase would determine if there are any roadblocks. However, based on my research, there are many creative engineering methods for resolving conditions to meet the guidelines that will allow for turn lanes and a safe buffer without compromising traffic flow and safety.

Another example of what the design phase would strive to resolve relates to his concern regarding “increased signalization” and slowing down traffic flow. One of the main goals of increasing SR 347 from four lanes to six lanes is to decrease GRIDLOCK, not increase GRIDLOCK. The design phase would strive to reach that goal and would likely include grade separated intersections at Casa Blanca Road, Riggs Road and a free flow on-ramp to I-10.

A last example is the concern over the Gila River Indian Community Easement Agreement. I agree, there is concern over changing the Easement Agreement and it will take time, collaboration, communication and cooperation, all of which are underway. As mentioned above, the city manager and I have started these discussions and our mayor has continued the discussions, in addition to staff coordinating the beginning stage with Gila River Indian Community.

My opponent closes his article with the option to “build a grade-separated crossing – a bridge to keep north/southbound traffic moving.” He goes on to say, “The same may need to be done at the I-10 interchange.” This portion of the SR 347 resides within Maricopa County. Obviously, many Pinal County taxpayers may have severe heart burn using revenue raised in Pinal County on a Maricopa County portion of the project. However, with MAG and Maricopa County as partners, that could be considered part of the solution, but not at the expense of increasing SR 347 lanes from four to six.

My philosophy as your city council member is to work with facts. The facts are that the Maricopa Area Transportation Plan-Phase I of December 2015 indicates that SR 347 is going to experience ‘significant congestion’ by 2017. The City of Maricopa Planning Division and Pinal County have already begun establishing the partners and relationships to make wise decisions on the SR347 and RTA. The RTA provides the revenue to begin the design phase in the quickest amount of time. Alternative routes would take significantly more time and revenue. Consider the time that has been needed for our own SR 347 overpass at the railroad track, it’s been over 10 years. Alternative routes would take significantly more time than adding lanes to SR 347 because SR 347 already exists and needs a modification to the GRIC Easement Agreement; whereas a completely new route requires purchasing new right-of-ways, new GRIC agreements, new agreements with other land owners, etc.

My opponent’s vote on the RTA is as follows in his own words, “Before we ask the voters to approve a 20-year sales tax increase, let’s make sure we can deliver improved transportation…”.

That’s going to be too late! The RTA revenue language can be modified to include a ‘Firewall’ for Maricopa funds, as was included in Maricopa County’s Prop 400. A ‘Firewall’ protects designated funds for a community in the event that the named project proves non-viable for any reason, which basically means the funds would still be used for a different transportation project that benefits Maricopa. With the design phase included as part of the RTA and with the city not having a surplus of money needed to pay for the very expensive design phase, I believe when the opportunity to vote on this proposition in early 2017 comes to the voters, we should vote ‘yes’ to minimize the impact of GRIDLOCK as quickly as possible.


Nancy Smith is a member of the Maricopa City Council and a candidate for re-election.

Dan Frank

By Dan Frank

As a civil engineer, I work on design, construction and maintenance of the physical and built environment, seeking solutions to solve everyday problems. One priority is our transportation corridors, particularly State Route 347.

If elected, one of my priorities will be working with the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), Pinal County, Gila River Indian Community (GRIC), Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) and others to improve (widen) SR347 for better access to I-10. SR 347, Maricopa’s primary ingress and egress route, will inevitably reach gridlock. The time to begin planning for expansion and improvements is now.

There will assuredly be hurdles, particularly how to pay for a project of this scope? One option is the proposed Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), which would be a voter-approved half-cent sales tax over 20 years to help fund highway projects throughout Pinal County. There are significant challenges with the RTA, including whether it is the best solution or even feasible at this point.

I have spoken with engineers, ADOT representatives, and former City employees about the project. All express serious concerns about viability, with emphasis in three key areas: Geometry, potential increased signalization, and the Gila River Indian Community ROW Agreement.

Geometry – The most logical improvement seems to be adding one additional lane toward the center median to the northbound and southbound lanes. However, ADOT’s Roadway Design Guidelines allow for a median width of 16 feet when a concrete barrier is used. Each additional lane is about 12 feet, and when combined with the median, would require 40 feet. The average existing space is 45 feet, so there is ample room to expand, until you consider left-turn intersections. There is not enough room to provide turn lanes and a safe buffer without compromising traffic flow and safety.

Increased Signalization at Side Roads – There are a total of five access points between Maricopa and Riggs Road.  SR 347’s narrow median and higher speed design could result in additional signals at these intersections. There are three already, and adding more only further reduces traffic flow/efficiency.

GRIC Right-of-Way Agreement – SR 347 crosses the Gila River Indian Community as an easement, not as right-of-way in its traditional sense.  The current agreement allows for two lanes in each direction. Any modification to this agreement would require GRIC approval. This is a vital component of ADOT’s ability to make any improvements on roads that cross GRIC land and any decision will require time, collaboration, communication and cooperation.

Alternatives and Solutions – Being a civil engineer, I’m all about finding alternatives and solutions. The SR 347 improvements are needed, but the main challenge is creating adequate capacity at intersections, particularly Riggs Road. This intersection has a significant amount of vehicular accidents, so one option is to build a grade-separated crossing – a bridge to keep north/southbound traffic moving. The same may need to be done at the I-10 interchange. Grade separations add cost, but they improve traffic flow and mitigate accidents.

My campaign emphasizes “doing things right, but also doing the right things.” I support improving SR 347, but not without continued, focused discussions with GRIC, ADOT, Pinal County and MAG to ensure the project is feasible and fundable. Before we ask the voters to approve a 20-year sales tax increase, let’s make sure we can delivery improved transportation, not another “dead end.”


Dan Frank is a candidate for Maricopa City Council.

Maricopa drivers can expect some major detours in the coming weeks as the Arizona Department of Transportation works on State Route 347 at two intersections.

Expect delays.

See map below

Aug. 5-8, ADOT will improve the roadway surface on SR 347 at the Smith-Enke Road intersection (SR 238). That work begins at 7 p.m. on Friday.

Northbound and southbound traffic will have lane restrictions. Eastbound traffic on SR 238 will be detoured south on Ralston Road and then east on Farrell to connect to SR 347. Westbound vehicles on Smith-Enke will be detoured south on Porter Road and then west on Honeycutt Road to SR 347.

The work is expected to be completed by 3 a.m. Aug. 8.

Beginning Aug. 12 at 7 p.m., ADOT will conduct similar work on SR 347 at the intersection of Edison Road.

Northbound and southbound vehicles will again experience lane restrictions. Eastbound traffic on Edison will be directed south on Wilson Avenue and then east on Hathaway Avenue. Westbound traffic on Edison will instead be sent south on Butterfield Parkway, exiting at Duncan Drive, and then west on Honeycutt Road.

The work is expected to be completed by 3 a.m. Aug. 15.

For more information, call 855-721-8530 or email projects@azdot.gov.

JWP-paving-8-5

by -
Maricopa resident Derek Chin asks George Froehlich of EPS-Group a question about the plans. Photo by Tyler Loveall

Eager to see what changes have been made to the plan for an overpass across the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, around 200 residents attended a public information meeting July 14.

Click here for the ADOT slideshow presentation.

Hosted by the Arizona Department of Transportation in the board meeting room at Maricopa Unified School District, the meeting provided details on a new alignment.

Just as he did in the last formal public meeting in 2014, consultant Elijah Williams of EPS Group walked attendees through the changes and took questions.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen a turnout like this at one of these meetings,” he said.

Williams said ADOT tried to respond to earlier concerns expressed about the earlier version, which would have razed the First Baptist Church and forced the Amtrak station to move. The new alignment avoids both of those scenarios.

It also avoids going over the top of the NAPA store, but leaving the building standing may cause even more problems for the owner. Tena Dugan was trying to find options for moving her store, which the old alignment plan would have destroyed. The new alignment wraps around the property.

Now she feels like she’s in limbo again until she can get answers about access.

“They took all that access on the front side. That’s my front door,” she said.

Putting an entry door on another side would be impossible without razing the 50-year-old building.

“I’ve never been against the overpass. This has to be done. I think this makes perfect sense,” she said of the overall concept. “It doesn’t make sense to leave my one building there when they’ve taken all of the side and all of the front.”

The new plan does wipe out the current site of F.O.R. Maricopa, the local food bank, something Wendy Webb saw in the cards. She has already been looking for a new location.

The new alignment changes the intersection with Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. What the old plan had essentially made a one-way, southbound exit that looped under the overpass is now a two-way road. It provides access to businesses on the west side of SR 347, though northbound traffic will apparently have to make a U-turn at Hathaway Avenue to reach such businesses as The New HQ.

Because the road is now two-way under the overpass, another dramatic change in the plan is the realignment of traffic flow from MCG Highway. The traffic will still use a new road next to MUSD to reach Honeycutt Road and then turn west to access the overpass. That road, however, will cut through the lawn portion of Rotary Park while avoiding the pool.

Access off of MCG to Pershing Street or to the Amtrak station will be as it is now.

Unless they use Bowling Road, residents who live south of the railroad tracks and wish to access MCG Highway must exit on Honeycutt Road and then turn back south on the new road.

Public comments are being sought through Aug. 15. Comments may be mailed to c/o SR 347, 1655 W. Jackson, #126F, Phoenix AZ 85007, or emailed to SR347@azdot.gov. Call with your comments at 855-712-8530.

ADOT and EPS personnel gather to answer specific questions from residents. Photo by Tyler Loveall
ADOT and EPS personnel gather to answer specific questions from residents. Photo by Tyler Loveall

Voters may be asked to consider ½-cent sales tax

Maricopa residents (from left) Julio Torres, Stuart Myers, Jessica Massa and Eric Cope commute daily to the East Valley on State Route 347 and have varying opinions on a possible ballot issue that could add lanes to the highway. Photo by William Lange

A half-cent sales tax could relieve some of the traffic pressure on State Route 347, if Pinal County voters go for it.

The Board of Supervisors had expected to to place a Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) proposal on the November ballot during its Wednesday meeting. However, according to County Manager Greg Stanley, push-back on the half-cent sales tax has the RTA calling a special meeting for Thursday at 11 a.m. They will consider revising the plan.

The tax would raise approximately $14.6 million annually over the next 20 years for 13 transportation improvement projects around the county.

High on the priority list is adding one lane each direction on the nine-mile stretch of SR 347 from the city of Maricopa to the Maricopa County line.

That is the fourth-most expensive project on the RTA list (see below) at an estimated $28.8 million.

The total estimated funds needed for all projects on the list (see map) and administration and other services is $640 million.

Louis Andersen, the Public Works director for Pinal County, said if voters approve the half-cent sales tax, the county would begin collecting the money on April 1. Some funds could become available at the end of June.

Should the RTA get an affirmative vote, more SR 347 lanes would not be a sure thing for the near future, though that project is included in Phase 1 of implementation.

An important aspect of the project is making sure it does not stop at the county line but continues to the Interstate 10 interchange. That involves coordination with the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG).

For some Maricopa residents, adding lanes is an obvious choice while others aren’t so sure:

Eric Cope has been commuting on SR 347 since 2006. He does not think more lanes will solve the problems and says a tax would be a waste of time. “The biggest issue is that anytime there is an accident, they shut down the whole road. If there are three lanes, they’ll shut down three lanes instead of two. What they need is to add a secondary route and pave a couple of the Indian roads – that would be ideal.”

Jessica Massa started commuting two years ago to Chandler, and was unprepared for the drive-time Maricopa traffic. “Some days, it’s not that bad, and sometimes it takes and hour to an hour and a half. If there’s an accident it’s more like two hours. I think adding the lanes will be a big help.”

Julio Torres has been commuting to the East Valley since 2008. “When you have a lot of folks who are in a rush and don’t allow enough time to get to work, it’s a challenge.” The proposed sales tax, he said, won’t be much help. “What would help is another route out of town, if we had our own version of the 101, the 202 or the 303 to downtown Phoenix.”

Stuart Myers has been commuting for eight years and said the traffic experience depends on the time of day. “If you’re drive between 5:45 and 6 in the morning, it takes half an hour to get to the airport. If you leave at 6:10, it takes 45 minutes to an hour. Drivers have no regard for anything; it’s just a race to a red light.” He said added lanes would not hurt, but other solutions are needed as well. “If Riggs Road was four lanes, I think that could help, too. And we need better outlets, as well. It’s never going to be one-and-done. We need long-term solutions.”


“There are hurdles to get over before it becomes a project,” said Eric Anderson, the transportation director for MAG.

What has stopped initiation of improvements to the roadway up to this point has been lack of a funding source. If that is secured through a citizens’ vote in Pinal County, the project could be added to MAG’s Regional Transportation Plan, Anderson said.

“Then we have to make sure it meets our air-quality standards,” he said. “There are steps to go through.”

That includes government studies.

“We have worked with MAG, had discussions with them, and they have tentatively agreed to conduct a study to determine what are the best options for achieving our goal to reduce the drive time from Maricopa to I-10,” Maricopa City Manager Gregory Rose said.

Rose said the city and MAG are looking for processes to assure any improvements in Pinal County extend to the I-10 interchange in Maricopa County.

“We’ve already started the process of engaging stakeholders along that corridor,” Rose said.

The idea of adding lanes to SR 347 also has to pass through Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), which is responsible for the roadway, and Gila River Indian Community, which owns the land.

“If Gila River says no, the discussion is over at that point,” Anderson said.

The ADOT process can be a major hurdle by itself, if state or federal funds are needed for the project.

“The Arizona Department of Transportation is supportive of any community or local agency that has identified additional transportation revenue to complete projects that are needed,” spokesman Dustin Krugel said. “In order for any project to move forward (that is funded partially or completely with state funds), it would need to be added to ADOT’s Five-Year Transportation Facilities Construction Program, which serves as a blueprint for future projects and designates how much local, state and federal funding is allocated for those projects.”

SR 347 is not on that five-year program. To become part of that plan, a project has to go through layers of review and (if federal funds are involved) the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, with public and stakeholder outreach. NEPA can take 2-3 years, Kruegel said.

If the SR 347 project is able to avoid using federal funds, at least one layer of review can be removed.

One of MAG’s goals is to have people working closer to where they live. That means boosting economic development and drawing employers to places like Maricopa. Anderson said that is the most efficient way of solving commuter traffic problems.

In current conditions, additional lanes seem the likely solution to traffic-flow problems. “It certainly needs it, given the amount of traffic,” Anderson said.

“I believe everyone is in agreement that it’s a reasonable goal to try to reduce the drive time,” Rose said.

Meanwhile, the RTA still needs to get on the ballot. “By statute, the board has to have that resolution to forward for the General Election by the 11th of July,” Stanley said.

traffic-jam-2
Pinal County RTA Projects Considered for Half-Cent Sales Tax
Project                                                                                                           Mileage             Cost
•    New North-South Corridor from Apache Junction to Coolidge                 36 miles           $345.6 million
•    New State Route 24 Parkway from Meridian Road to N-S Corridor            5 miles            $48 million
•    Casa Grande Connector additional lanes from Henness to N-S Corridor   14 miles           $44.8 million
•    State Route 347 additional lanes from Maricopa to county line                9 miles            $28.8 million
•    Selma Highway road construction from Casa Grande to Coolidge            16 miles           $25.6 million.
•    Montgomery Road additional lanes from I-8 to M-CG Highway                 8 miles            $25.6 million.
•    I-10 traffic interchange at Kleck and Korston roads                                  0.5 mile           $15 million.
•    Thornton Road additional lanes from SR 84 to I-8                                    3.5 miles          $11.2 million.
•    Burris Road additional lanes from SR 84 to Alamo Road                           1.5 miles          $4.8 million.
•    West Pinal Freeway Right of Way from I-8 to county line                        28 miles           $4.2 million.
•    Peters Road additional lanes from Burris to Thornton                               1 mile             $3.2 million.
•    Saddlebrook new road                                                                              1 mile              $2.5 million
•    N-S Corridor Right of Way from Korsten/Kleck to I-10                             15 miles           $2.2 million.
•    Public Transportation – Park & Ride lots, Dial-A-Ride                                                      $28.2 million
•    Municipal local projects                                                                                                    $24 million
•    Contingency                                                                                                                      $20.3 million
•    Administrative costs                                                                                                          $6 million


This is an updated version of a story that ran in the July issue of InMaricopa.