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transportation

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Citizen Transportation Advisory Committee members Terri Crain (left) and Tena Dugan.

The Board for the Pinal County Regional Transportation Authority (PRTA) announced the names of the citizens selected for the new Citizen Transportation Advisory Committee (CTAC).

The PRTA Board approved Terri Crain as Supervisor Anthony Smith’s representative on the committee and Tena Dugan has been selected to represent Mayor Christian Price. Crain is president/CEO for the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce, a Maricopa resident and an avid supporter of several non-profits. She originally began her career with the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce in 2006.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the business community to have a seat at the table in this very important planning process, I am thrilled that the Supervisor appointed me,” Crain said.

“Terri is an outspoken advocate for creating for Maricopa a healthy business climate, and I know she will extend that passion for improving important links such as the SR 347 and the Maricopa/Casa Grande Highway,” Smith said. “I’m confident Terri will be a strong advocate to help push both high priority projects.”

Dugan is a longtime resident of Maricopa and has owned the Napa Auto Parts store since 2001.

“I welcome Tena Dugan to the Citizen Transportation Advisory Committee,” Price said. “As a business owner and an engaged citizen, Tena knows firsthand the importance of improving our infrastructure in order to have Maricopa grow and prosper. She will be a valuable member of this committee.”

The creation of a CTAC supports the Pinal County Regional Transportation Authority that was approved by the voters in November 2017. The purpose of the CTAC is to inform and collaborate the plans for construction of parkways, principal arterial streets and transit projects throughout all Pinal County.

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Photo by Michelle Chance

The Maricopa City Council approved an application for federal transit funds Tuesday.

The vote followed a presentation by the city’s transportation department and a public hearing about plans for developing public transportation in the community.

Council unanimously approved submission of the application for grant funding through the Federal Transit Administration, a grant that has become a mainstay in the city’s transit budget.

Development Services Director Martin Scribner said the federal Section 5311 grant is something they apply for every two years. By continuing to do so, the FTA remains informed about the goals of the city, making it more likely to continue to receive the funds, which make up more than half of the transportation department’s budget.

The combined proposed transportation budget for fiscal years 2018-19 and 2019-20 is roughly $924,000, of which $579,000 are federal funds.

 “This is a great time for us to come and say, ‘Here’s where we’re at right now, here’s where we see going in the very near future,’” Scribner said.

In 2017, the City of Maricopa Express Transit – COMET — saw a growth in ridership of roughly 2,700 more people than in 2016, Transportation Director David Maestas said. That’s a 39-percent increase.

This, Maestas said, follows an overall trend that indicates the city needs to begin to expand transit services. By doing so, he said, the city becomes eligible for more housing tax-credits, which together spurs development.

“There definitely is no question about this,” Maestas said. “There is a strong correlation between development and transportation.”

COMET offers two main types of service: a route deviation service and a local and regional demand response service.

The route deviation service is more like a typical bus route with 11 stops, each with a scheduled service currently operating between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. The demand response service is a dial-a-ride type service that offers curbside pick-up and drop-off at specific locations around Maricopa and to any location within five miles of Banner Hospital in Casa Grande or Chandler Regional Medical Center. 

The trend seen with the increase in ridership, Maestas said, indicates a preference to the local scheduled route deviation service.

“We’ve already surpassed demand response and we’re operating conservatively fewer hours, so the trend would suggest to us the efficiency of operating a route deviation service versus demand response,” Maestas said.

As such, the city is hoping to use a combination of federal funds and funds from the recently approved RTA tax to purchase six bus stop shelters to cover all 11 current stops on the scheduled route and have one as a reserve.

Maestas also said, given the uptick in scheduled route riders, the city is looking to possibly expand hours of operation from 7 a.m.–5 p.m. to 6 a.m.–to 6 p.m.

As for the demand response service, trips cost riders only $1 per one-way local-trip and $3 per regional round-trip. Typically, with fewer than five riders for regional trips, which primarily go to hospitals, this is extremely inefficient in terms of cost.  

Councilmember Vince Manfredi inquired about alternative options such as rideshare programs like Lyft Uber and Waymo, given that medical trips through those services are typically subsidized by insurance, Medicaid or Medicare.

Considering these options and the relative inefficiency of the regional demand service, Manfredi asked, “At what point do we get to that tipping point where we really do have to look at rideshare services that are doing it more efficiently, quicker, and just better than the government.”

Manfredi has driven for both Uber and Lyft. When asked if shifting toward promoting ridesharing services for medical access transportation instead of a city services, would be a conflict of interest, he said, “I don’t see it as a conflict… I don’t drive for Uber medical.”

The actual service is called Uber Assist and is typically available for the same rate as a regular UberX. From Maricopa to Chandler Regional Medical center, a one-way ride typically costs a rider $20-25. The current cost for COMET regional demand service is $3 dollars per rider for a round trip.

However, Manfredi said, the actual cost to the city is closer to $40-50 per round trip. With typical trips taking fewer than five riders, that means the city is picking up a cost of any where between $25-45 dollars per regional demand trip to the hospital in Chandler.

If there were an increase in demand for the regional demand service, he said, he would support it.

“Once we can get enough people on a bus, maybe it makes sense, but as we sit right now it’s not making sense.”



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More than a decade of rush-hour congestion on SR 347 caused many Maricopa residents to vote in favor of the county's RTA this week.

With all ballots in, Propositions 416 and 417 appear to have succeeded with Pinal County voters.

The unofficial results from Tuesday’s election show Prop 416, the county’s Regional Transportation Authority, receiving 57 percent approval. It was a tougher battle for Prop 417, which was the funding mechanism for Prop 416. The Yes votes currently lead 50.97 percent to 49.03 percent, a difference of 901 votes.

“What has impressed me is that the City of Maricopa precincts and those in San Tan Valley are pretty much carrying the county,” Supervisor Anthony Smith said.

For Prop 417, the Maricopa Fiesta precinct was most typical of the incorporated community. Those voters approved the half-cent sales tax by 59 percent.

The RTA includes road improvements and new road construction all over the county. Phase 1 includes the planned widening of State Route 347 from four lanes to six lanes up to the county line as well as an east-west corridor.

Smith called it the election “one of the most important votes that Pinal County will have for several years or maybe generations.”

Pinal County reported voter turnout of 24 percent for the mail-in election.

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Photo by Michelle Chance

The city has extended its contract with the third-party transit service to continue operating the City of Maricopa Express Transit fleet, better known as COMET.

Maricopa City Council voted Tuesday to extend the contract with Total Transit Enterprises for another three years of service, costing the city $781,000 over the life of the contract.

In 2020, Total Transit will also have an option to renew with one-year contracts for up to two years after the new contract’s expiration.

Maricopa Transit Planner David Maestas said the only increase in cost is marginal. At 3 percent, the increase is included due to cost-of-living increases and inflation.

Maestas said the city prefers to keep a third-party as its transit operator because costs associated with public transit can quickly become overwhelming,

“One, you have to have a dedicated facility for the transit fleet, the city would them become responsible for the hiring of drivers and dispatchers,” Maestas said. “On top of that you would have to have a full-time operations manager.”

Those expenses can become daunting even in larger cities like Phoenix, he said.

“More and more cities that have owned transit themselves are going to contract providers,” he said.

“Same is true with Phoenix and Valley Metro.”

The bulk of the expense will be paid for with Transportation grant money – roughly $472,000. The remaining $309,000 will be covered out of the general fund which is accounted for each year the city’s budget is developed.

City documents show the contract is “contingent upon council budget approval” each year for fiscal years 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Alan Marchione

By Alan Marchione

Dear Fellow Voters,

Surely by now, you’ve noticed the numerous signs in support of Props 416 and 417 littering our intersections. Once again, we have a local government entity, Pinal County in this case, asking us to support yet another useless tax. The political action committee backing this measure is none other than the contractors hoping to bid on the project, and profit off of your tax dollars. I’m asking you to join me in voting NO on this “tax-and-spend money grab.”

Seeking taxpayer support of a supplementary tax should not be the fix for the county and state’s ineffective management of the existing tax revenue allocated for building and/or maintaining roads. Our government continuously solicits us to finance every one of its dazzling programs. The reality is, they turn out to be poorly managed revenue streams with insufficient oversight, delivering little to no realized benefit to the taxpayer.

Government sustains its unquenchable appetite and sense of entitlement on what we earn. The question we should be asking our local representatives, is exactly what percentage of our hard-earned income do they feel we, the taxpayer, are entitled to keep for our own financial security? Pinal County and the PAC funding the yes effort, state “It’s just 24 cents a day.” A common gimmick used to try and sell you on why you should support a tax is the use of terms “Just” and “Only.”

On its own, “just” 24 cents per day may not seem like a very large sum, but when you add up all of the “Justs and the Onlies,” you end up with a Mt. Everest of Just and Only. The taxpayer, is left scratching their head looking at their “Kitchen Table Economics” monthly budget, wondering how to squeeze dollars out of cents. While subsidizing the needs of the federal government, state government, and local taxes, we are falling short on our ability to care for our own families, and adequately save for the future. Often forgotten, are lower income families and those on a fixed income, who are not able to easily absorb the financial burden of additional taxes as well as our local elected officials advocating it; unfortunately, this happens habitually.

While I fully support economic development and infrastructure improvements, I cannot support an additional tax that is being advertised with false promises and platitudes on how it will improve your quality of life, such as widening the 347 freeway to Chandler. Last I checked, it was called State Route 347, and not Maricopa Route 347. The current dysfunctional culture with respect to infrastructure improvements in the state, is that if you want the state to make an improvement, your community must pay part of the cost. Inherently, the financial burden is pushed to county and local governments to supplement the state’s responsibility. Further taxation on an already over-taxed community is not the answer. Between current federal, state, county, city, MUSD, CAC, utility and gas taxes, already higher utility rates, HOA dues, and every other tax and fee that can be put on us, I’d actually like to keep what money I have left, for my family.

At times, I wonder if we’re destined to tax ourselves into oblivion, and then ask ourselves how we got to this point. Nowadays, it seems we work more for the government than we do ourselves. You and your earned income are NOT the property of your government. Adding injury to insult, Pinal County is counting on your complacency, by strategically petitioning this item in an off-year election cycle, and by mail-in only ballot. For more information regarding this voting session, links to update your voter address, and local locations for ballot replacement on Nov. 7, please visit: http://www.pinalcountyaz.gov/Recorder/Documents/2017NovemberElectionFAQ.pdf. Join me in voting NO, and demand your government employ critical thinking skills in finding a better solution.


Alan Marchione is an 11-year resident of Maricopa and former city councilmember.

Little has changed in the commuter traffic on State 347 of 10 years ago (left) and today.

Pinal County residents will have the opportunity to vote in November to approve a sales tax funding infrastructure improvements across the county.

For Maricopa, it could mean several direct improvements including additional lanes on major roads, including State Route 347, the securing of a right-of-way for the future Interstate 11 corridor, and public transportation expansion.

Proposition 417 would fund these projects with a half-cent county transportation excise (sales) tax. The revenue from Prop 417 would provide funding to the updated Regional Transportation Plan – Proposition 416 – which voters will also have the chance to approve in November.

The first phase of the transportation plan includes measures to widen State Route 347 to six lanes north of Maricopa and to create an “East-West Corridor” by widening Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway and Val Vista Road to four lanes.

Revenue from Prop 417, which officials are estimating to be $641 million over its 20-year lifespan, will be exacted on any business transaction involving the sale of “tangible personal property” in Pinal County.

There is, however, a limitation built into the tax.

The 0.5 percent tax would only be applied to the first $10,000 of income from any given item.

For example, if you purchase a car for $12,000, $2,000 of that would not be subject to the tax since a vehicle is considered a singular item. If you purchase another vehicle for $10,000 and then add $2,000 worth of accessories all $12,000 would be subject to the tax since additions are typically considered separate items.

Maricopa City Councilmember Nancy Smith said she rarely supports tax increases, but she will consider it if it meets three criteria: A rigid timeline, voter approval and specified purpose.

Smith said she supports both Propositions 416 and 417.

“I can’t help but say we have to stand up and help ourselves and apply this half-cent tax, which is equivalent to $88 per family per year,” Smith said.

Pinal County Public Works Director Andrew Smith said it’s important to note these issues will be on a special mail-in ballot only. Last year, he said, when the issue was first poised to be on the ballot, there was some concern with the length of the ballot given the nature of the general election and all the other propositions it contained.

Supporters are working against a “no new taxes” mindset among several Maricopans as well as cynicism about the cooperation of Maricopa County and Gila River Indian Community in widening SR 347 all the way to I-10.

Andrew Smith said he appreciates the concerns specific communities have about the tax and transportation plan and how it affects them directly. However, they should have a macro view of this plan, which will improve the quality of life for everyone who does business, has a job, owns property or lives in Pinal County.

“Try and look at it as a resident of Pinal County,” Andrew Smith said.  “How do you get around? You do go to Maricopa County, you do go to Pima county, so this establishes a regional plan that will enhance the whole county and improve economic development.”

On a much longer timeline, the transportation plan is further considering the potential path of Interstate 11, which Pinal County hopes to bring into its boundaries, just west of Maricopa. Revenue from the tax will help preserve county rights-of-way in the area that could eventually give Maricopa direct access to the major highway.

“What I like about that being on the RTA is that it says our county is looking to influence I-11 and where it comes,” Nancy Smith said. “If we don’t have the money to secure the purchase of right-of way, then our chances become much slimmer at becoming part of that road, so I love that we’re planning ahead in that aspect.”

The Regional Transportation Plan also includes measures to improve public transportation by funding rapid transit services and expanding current transit services such as Park and Ride, Dial-A-Ride and Maricopa’s COMET.

Eligible voters should automatically receive ballots by mail. Voters can confirm they are on the mailing list by calling  the Pinal County Elections Office at 520-866-7550.

http://cagaz.org/RTA/documents/PRTA_Brochure_ReadOnly.pdf


This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Document summarizes comments from summer 2016 outreach

Over the past year, the Arizona Department of Transportation asked the public and agencies to share their ideas, comments and concerns about the Interstate 11 environmental study from Nogales to Wickenburg. A summary of comments is now available and will help ADOT select and evaluate corridor alternatives for further study.

The ultimate I-11 goal is to create a direct interstate link from Tucson and Phoenix metro areas to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Last summer, ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration held a 45-day scoping period as part of the National Environmental Policy Act process. ADOT received hundreds of comments from community members, tribal nations and agency representatives. The full Scoping Summary Report is now available in the Arizona section of i11study.com under the “Reports” tab.

1-11_scoping_map

Comments and other feedback on the I-11 studies from Maricopa officials came in the form of responses to letters of invitation from the Federal Highway Administration  to be involved and in-person conversations during public meetings.

Mayor Christian Price attended a June 8, 2016, ADOT meeting in Casa Grande, at which he emphasized the Pinal County I-11 Coalition. Communities involved have been considering possible route locations as I-11 passes through Pinal County, preferable south of Maricopa but in the city’s planning area.

City Manager Gregory Rose wrote that the I-11 corridor passing through Maricopa’s planning area “would be a tremendous benefit to our residents and property owners.”

Maricopa City Council passed a resolution Sept. 24, 2009, to support that alignment of I-11.

Ak-Chin Indian Community is also an active participant in the planning.

Scoping is an early and important step in the environmental review process. During scoping, the public and agencies have an opportunity to provide input, which helps determine the “scope” or range of issues to be addressed in the environmental document, also referred to as the Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement.

During scoping, ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration hosted three agency meetings and six public meetings in seven locations throughout the corridor study area. Approximately 600 people attended the June 2016 meetings.

ADOT received comments from 74 agencies and tribal governments during the scoping period, and another 834 comments came in from the public. All comments received during the 45-day scoping period are included in the appendices of the Scoping Summary Report.

Agencies provided comments with similar themes about the proposed Interstate 11, including consideration of existing and proposed local and regional transportation plans; the need to study opportunities that foster economic development; and the importance of protecting environmentally sensitive resources. Some agencies stated that they prefer freeway alternatives that build upon and improve existing roadway infrastructure, while others said they favor building an entirely new interstate freeway.

The public had similar comments, along with many others. A majority of the public comments came through an online survey and comment form. Of those 657 responses, community members noted that a new freeway like Interstate 11 could address transportation concerns, such as relieving regional congestion, improving travel time and reliability, improving freight travel and reliability, and reducing bottlenecks on existing freeways. Survey results and other comments can be found within the Scoping Summary Report and on the I-11 blog:  i11study.com/Arizona/blog.asp.

All feedback received during the scoping process is being used by ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration as the two agencies identify potential Interstate 11 alternatives to be studied, impacts to be considered and evaluation methods to be used during the development of the Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement.

In addition to the formal scoping period, ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration have spent a lot of time during the past year meeting and talking with the public, agencies, local and tribal governments, and partners about the ongoing Interstate 11 environmental study. Each discussion is an opportunity to hear what people have to say about the proposed interstate freeway that would run border-to-border throughout Arizona.

The next round of public involvement opportunities will take place in 2017, when ADOT presents a reasonable range of alternatives to be further studied. An evaluation of a “no-build” alternative, in which Interstate 11 would not be built, will also be considered.

For more information about the Interstate 11 environmental study and to subscribe for updates, visit i11study.com.

To deter unsafe lane changes that can result in crashes, Arizona Department of Transportation crews will install a series of lane separator posts by this weekend along the westbound U.S. 60 (Superstition Freeway) HOV lane between Kyrene Road and Interstate 10 in Tempe.

 

The white polyurethane posts, also known as lane delineators, are being installed to discourage westbound U.S. 60 drivers using the HOV lane from making sudden lane changes as they approach the I-10 interchange.

 

The installation will require the following overnight restrictions along westbound US 60:

 

Westbound US 60 HOV lane and next left lane closed between Kyrene Road and I-10 from 9 p.m. Thursday to 1 a.m. Friday (Sept. 23). Please be prepared to merge safely and watch for workers and equipment in work zone.

 

Westbound US 60 HOV lane and next left lane closed between Kyrene Road and I-10 from 9 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Saturday (Sept. 24). Please be prepared to merge safely and watch for workers and equipment in work zone.

 

Sudden lane changes from the westbound HOV lane have contributed to crashes along this section of US 60 in recent years. While most have been minor, non-injury crashes, some have been serious. The crashes can cause significant delays for drivers on the westbound Superstition Freeway.

 

State highway conditions are available by visiting ADOT’s Travel Information site at az511.gov or by calling 511.

 

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.

Formal environmental process now underway for Nogales-to-Wickenburg corridor

The I-11 sign was unveiled in 2014 near the Arizona/Nevada border.

With six public meetings scheduled in June and an opportunity for the public to contribute in other ways, Arizonans can help shape the next step in planning for the proposed Interstate 11 as the Arizona Department of Transportation moves ahead on a three-year environmental study for a corridor stretching from Nogales to Wickenburg.

The proposed corridor for I-11 would be just south of Maricopa. (See map of study area below.) The closest public meeting will be in Casa Grande on June 8.

Planned as much more than a highway, I-11 is envisioned as a multimodal corridor connecting Arizona with regional and international markets while opening up new opportunities for mobility, trade, job growth and economic competitiveness.

ADOT has opened a 45-day comment period allowing Arizonans to provide input on the I-11 study area, a process known as public scoping. It’s an opportunity to ask questions and share comments about topics such as potential locations for the I-11 corridor, environmental considerations, impact on wildlife habitats or cultural resources, and possible opportunities for other transportation modes, such as rail, that may be considered.

“The progress on the Interstate 11 study shows ADOT’s commitment to establish a key border-to-border corridor and a trade route with Mexico that will continue our state’s efforts to boost commerce, job growth and economic development,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “We have the support of partner agencies throughout the study corridor who realize the benefits that I-11 can bring in terms of competitiveness, regional and global connections, and business opportunities through this new freight and travel route.”

The recommended I-11 corridor would likely follow US 93 from the Hoover Dam bypass bridge south to Wickenburg. The 280-mile corridor that is the focus of the current environmental study begins in Wickenburg and runs west of the Phoenix metropolitan area and then south to the Tucson area and then Nogales.

Publishing a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act, kicks off the formal environmental study process, as ADOT works to prepare a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement to select an I-11 corridor alternative between Nogales and Wickenburg.

Six public meetings are scheduled in the study area:

Wednesday, June 8
Dorothy Powell Senior Adult Center – Dining Room
405 E. Sixth St.
Casa Grande

Wednesday, June 15
Buckeye Community Center – Multipurpose Room
201 E. Centre Ave.
Buckeye

Tuesday, June 21
Nogales High School – Cafeteria
1905 N. Apache Blvd.
Nogales

Wednesday, June 22
Arizona Riverpark Inn
777 W. Cushing St.
Tucson

Thursday, June 23
Marana Middle School – Gymnasium
11285 W. Grier Rd.
Marana

Wednesday, June 29
Wickenburg Community Center
160 N. Valentine St.
Wickenburg

All meetings run from 4 to 6:30 p.m., with presentations beginning at approximately 4:15 p.m. The same information will be presented at each meeting.

Those interested in commenting on the study but are unable to attend a public meeting are encouraged to visit the study website at i11study.com/Arizona and complete an online survey. All feedback, questions and comments will be considered part of the study, are entered into the project record and will help shape the proposed I-11 corridor.

In March, ADOT, in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration, launched the three-year study. Until now, a process called pre-scoping has included meetings with federal, state and local governments, resource agencies and planning organizations within the study corridor.

The first step in the study is developing an Alternatives Selection Report to assess a wide range of corridor alternatives and options, along with opportunities and constraints. A Draft Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement will evaluate in greater detail a smaller number of corridor alternatives, including segments that may advance as independent improvements or projects. There will be a no-build alterative as well.

Input from the public, communities and other stakeholders will contribute to these two reports, as well as a Final Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement that will list a selected corridor alternative.

In November 2014, the Arizona and Nevada departments of transportation completed a two-year feasibility study as the first step in the Interstate 11 process. In December 2015, Congress formally designated Interstate 11 from north to south in Arizona through the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act. While the designation doesn’t include funding, it does make the corridor eligible for federal funding in the future.
During the next three years, the public, communities and other stakeholders will have opportunities to comment through regular meetings, community events and other forums.

Right now, comments can be sent to:
* Online survey: i11study.com/Arizona
* Email: I-11ADOTStudy@hdrinc.com
* Toll-free bilingual telephone hotline: 1-844-544-8049
* Mail:
Interstate 11 Tier 1 EIS Study Team
c/o ADOT Communications
1655 W. Jackson St., Mail Drop 126F
Phoenix, AZ 85007

For more information about the I-11 study, visit i11study.com/Arizona.

I-11-map

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The I-11 sign was unveiled in 2014 near the Arizona/Nevada border.

Arizona and Mexico will further their collaboration on developing the key trade corridor connecting them under an agreement signed this week by Arizona Department of Transportation Director John Halikowski and Raul Murrieta Cummings, undersecretary of infrastructure for Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transport.

The memorandum of understanding, signed Tuesday in Mexico City, establishes a joint planning committee that will produce a study of ways to improve the corridor along Interstate 19 in Arizona and Highway 15 in Mexico. The primary north-south route in western Mexico and the western United States, the corridor feeds into Arizona’s port of entry system along with Arizona’s and Mexico’s highway systems.

The Arizona portion of the corridor will also serve as part of the anticipated route of Interstate 11, a multimodal transportation corridor from Nogales to the Hoover Dam bypass bridge. From there, I-11 will expand into northern Nevada, potentially reaching as far as Canada. Maricopa officials have been campaigning to have the new corridor come near the city’s boundaries.

“Our efforts to strengthen the Arizona-Mexico relationship are already resulting in great success, including the signing of this agreement between ADOT and the Mexican federal Ministry of Communications and Transport,” Governor Doug Ducey said. “These efforts will grow our binational trade and make our freight and trade corridor one of the most competitive in the global market.”

Mexico is Arizona’s largest international trading partner, with $16 billion annually in imports and exports. By working together to invest in transportation infrastructure on both sides of the border, Arizona and Mexico will realize opportunities for connectivity, economic development and job growth.

“This is the culmination of years of building the right relationships and a continuation of Governor Ducey’s commitment to fostering a closer working relationship with Mexico,” Halikowski said. “Governor Ducey has challenged us to think big, to think as a business, and with this study we will push our sphere of influence beyond the border, helping Arizona companies tap into new business opportunities in Mexico. This will also help us position our corridor as a viable, cost-effective alternative to the corridors connecting Mexico to the Texas border.”

Mexico has pledged $100,000 and ADOT $200,000 toward the first phase of the multiyear Arizona-Mexico Corridor Study, which will identify priority transportation projects, solutions to congestion and backups along the Arizona-Mexico border, ideas to make the corridor more efficient for multimodal transportation, and technologies to improve efficiency and reliability. The study will also focus on identifying clusters for job creation and economic development along the entire corridor.

“This one-of-a-kind study will set us apart from the rest and help us market our region throughout the world,” Halikowski said.

ADOT is a member of the Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance, which includes the Arizona-Mexico Commission, the Arizona Commerce Authority and the Arizona Office of Tourism, along with other partner agencies. The alliance focuses on creating economic development opportunities for Arizona and Mexico through investment in transportation infrastructure, partnerships and strategic planning.

“The Arizona-Mexico Corridor Study promises to bring greater understanding of the economic opportunities that exist for our region,” said David Farca, president of the Arizona-Mexico Commission. “In addition, it will help us raise awareness of Arizona’s strategic geographic position in the heart of an economically powerful mega-region that gives us a competitive advantage in the global market and makes Arizona a prime location to do business.”

Over the last few years, ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration, along with the U.S. General Services Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, have invested more than $250 million in improvements at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales ‒ improvements that benefit the overall corridor. Plans are moving forward to improve State Route 189 to enhance the flow of commercial truck traffic and to ensure international commerce can efficiently and safely travel between Arizona and Mexico.

During the meeting preceding the signing ceremony, Halikowski pushed for additional improvements to the Mexican side of Arizona’s ports of entry. Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transport reaffirmed its commitment of $2.2 billion for improvements to the Highway 15 corridor from Mexico City to the Arizona-Mexico border.

This week’s agreement promises to add not only needed infrastructure, but global opportunities.

“Arizona’s relationship with Mexico continues to grow and strengthen thanks to Governor Ducey’s efforts and ambitious trade agenda,” said Sandra Watson, president and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority. “In 2015 alone, Mexico accounted for more than $9 billion in Arizona exports. Conducting this study is an excellent step in enhancing the competitiveness of the Arizona-Mexico Corridor. Doing so will facilitate increased cross-border trade and advance Arizona’s position in the global economy.”

The Arizona-Mexico Corridor Study is expected to begin later this year. For more information about the Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance, visit azttca.org.

Dan Marum (right) is a consultant with Wilson & Company, hired by the city of Maricopa to conduct traffic studies in the region. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

By Raquel Hendrickson

An overpass is one of the most certain elements on the Maricopa Area Transportation Plan.

Its purpose of improving traffic flow through the city could be the impetus for creating three northbound lanes from Smith-Enke Road to the Rancho El Dorado entry. It could also be the lure for bringing the proposed Interstate 11 closer to Maricopa.

It is a stable point in the city’s draft Transportation Master Plan, which is filled with projects to improve how Maricopans will get around for the next 25 years.

Developer Forum 072215

Some proposals, however, have a lot of question marks, though they continue to appear on planning maps. Developers Seth Keeler and Scott Cole are not happy about that.

Both have pending developments in the crosshairs of some of the transportation improvement ideas. Some red-flagging is in order, from their perspective, as Phase 1 moves forward. The draft was presented to the Maricopa City Council Aug. 4 after an open house.

The overpass on John Wayne Parkway across Union Pacific Railroad tracks has long been a darling for planners and now has a promise of state funding in five years. It will contribute to a goal of the transportation portion of Maricopa’s 2040 Vision: “Create an adequate intra-city road network.”

Another grade separation across the UPRR tracks at the junction of Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway and White & Parker Road is proposed for the far more distant future. The idea was introduced in 2010.

The plan is to tie that grade separation into the proposed East-West Corridor by extending Farrell Road on the west side of the railroad tracks.

Cole represents the Santa Cruz Ranch project, which is in an unincorporated area adjacent to the city limits. The new corridor would run through his property.

He has voiced his complaints to the city council more than once about the proposed road placement. Cole Enterprises has an agreement with Pinal County about just that kind of situation.

“We cannot be required to put roads in Santa Cruz Ranch,” he said at a meeting for developers to look at the draft transportation plan. “We’ve said this at every meeting like this. That public comment never shows up anywhere. We never get any feedback.”

Transportation and Transit Director David Maestas emphasized it is a preliminary draft of the area transportation plan. Geographical and hydrological features in the area are dictating the placement of that corridor so far. In particular, Santa Rosa Wash plays a part in all movement in that area.

Dan Marum, transportation planning manager for Wilson & Company, the city’s consultant, said the corridor ideas are basic and simply lines on a map rather than written in stone at this stage.

“It’s not just a line on a map,” Cole countered. “If I hear that again I’ll go crazy.”

Keeler requested a red box be placed on the proposed maps to indicate a problem area as a reminder to all planners.

Keeler, who represents W Holdings in Tempe, also has a point of contention with the proposed alignment of Farrell Road. On project maps, it would cut southwest through his property before connecting to State Route 347.

He brought up his dissatisfaction with that proposal during the first Developer Outreach Forum the city’s transportation planners hosted in April. So he was surprised to see the same configuration at the second meeting in July.

“It looks like everything we told staff hasn’t been taken into account,” Keeler said.

Maestas described the current alignment of Farrell Road as a “fatal flaw” in the effort to make it a four-lane corridor because it would impact land belonging to the Ak-Chin Indian Community. That, he said, is why the alternative is to angle it south.

Marum said Phase 1 of the Transportation Master Plan was to find ideas to deal with needs, not agreements. “In Phase 2, we’ll be planning alternatives that can address those concerns,” he said.

While Maricopa has challenges on Farrell Road, its more immediate attention is on State routes 347 and 238. The Arizona Department of Transportation has shown little interest in widening SR 347 to six lanes and there is a local push to find another route to Interstate 10, but Marum has faith improvements can be made to the 347 traveling experience.

“We want to avoid the stigma that 347 is broken,” he said. “We have a small window to get out in front of that.”

Maricopa Area Transportation Plan
• Phase 1 – Transportation Master Plan, Regional Connectivity Plan
• Phase 2 – Plan Implementation Support
• Projected population in 2040: 138,000
• Projected population at total build-out: 600,000

Regional Connectivity Plan Goals & Objectives
• Update transportation planning framework to support City development patterns and those of surrounding communities
• Examine roadway network to assure functions match community growth and needed regional connections
• Plan for multimodal connections to surrounding communities
• Provide long-term guidance on right-of-way requirements for regional facilities

 

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Maricopa city crews refresh road markings on Honeycutt Road. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

By Adam Wolfe

As the city of Maricopa officials develop their plans for the next 25 years, the Development Services Department is continuing to push forward toward its goals of expanding transportation and accessibility for the city.

Development Services had set an 18-month timeframe to complete a study regarding the city’s needs and goals for the future. The study was broken into two parts (Phase I and Phase II), and the overall cost of the study is $577,580. Nearly six months into the study, the department is right on schedule.

“Believe it or not, we are concluding Phase I of the area transportation plan,” Transportation Planner David Maestas said. “This is comprised of the ‘Transportation Master Plan’ and the ‘Regional Connectivity Plan.’”

Much like the city itself, the Development Services Departments has also broken up its goals over the next 25 years. With so many moving pieces needing to fall into place, Maestas said it would be impossible to set the goals on any shorter of a timeframe – everything from road upgrades to transit routes that don’t exist yet play important roles in the city’s future planning.

The goals for transit are divided by the decade. For 2020, the department hopes to expand on the existing COMET shuttle services. A key factor for the city to continue growing is for Maricopa to continue supporting Valley Metro vanpool services to and from the Phoenix area. This not only helps commuters get to work, but it also eventually will allow more people to come see Maricopa.

“We have 2020 recommendations and 2030 recommendations that actually introduce the express route service into the Phoenix metro area,” Wilson & Company Transportation Planning Manager Dan Marum said, “then taking that even a step further, adding to that express service into Phoenix. Then, expanding the local fixed route service all the way to the eastern edge of the growth area, and then implementing a supplemental circulator service that would compliment access to that regional connection.”

By 2040, the look and feel of Maricopa will have likely changed dramatically. In order to sustain the expected growth, transportation will need to change dramatically as well. Development Services hopes to not only make it easy for Maricopa commuters to get to Phoenix, but to make Maricopa a transportation hub for traffic coming in and out of the city.

If the Development Services Department stays on track, Maricopa could not only see the growth of transit services in place within Maricopa, but the implementation of express route services to the Valley Metro Transit System. By 2040, “Park and Ride” transportation centers could be developed for mass transportation to and from the Phoenix metropolitan area. At that point, Maricopa wouldn’t just be a suburb of Phoenix, but an economic power in the area.

All of this, of course, is speculative and years away. The plans set forth now could one day lead to Maricopa being an economic power, but it is the small changes that will lead to the major ones. Phase II is expected to last approximately a year.

Maricopa is studying the likely areas of traffic growth in and around the community.
Maricopa is studying the likely areas of traffic growth in and around the community.

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