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(ADOT)

 

There were 308 traffic crashes on State Route 347 in 2019, according to data from the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Those resulted in 143 injuries and four deaths. The incidents occurred the length of the highway, from Interstate 10 to SR 84, including through the City of Maricopa.

The most common type of collision involved vehicles rear-ending slower or stopped vehicles. That happened 196 times last year. Another 40 were vehicles sideswiping others.

Of the collisions, 26 were determined to be hit-and-run incidents. Thirteen involved alcohol, and three involved drug use.

According to the ADOT data, 27 incidents were single-vehicle crashes. In 22 cases, a collision occurred as one vehicle was trying to turn left against traffic. Only one crash was listed as a head-on.

CAUSES

Officers determined there was no driver-distraction involved in 70% of the crashes. Of the other 90 crashes, it was unknown if the driver was distracted in 41 cases. Drivers were distracted by operating electronic devices or mobile phones in 16 incidents. Another 11 were distracting by eating or drinking in the vehicle.

In two of the four fatal crashes, driver distraction was not considered a contributing factor. In the other two, that element was unknown.

The data show only 16 crashes involved speed. In two cases, the vehicle was traveling 25 miles over the posted limit. One driver was traveling 15 mph too fast. In five cases, the vehicle was estimated to be traveling 10 mph over the limit, and in eight cases, the involved vehicle was just 5 mph over the limit.

A dozen of the crashes were rollovers, including one of the fatal wrecks. Five people ran off the road and into a fence, two ran into a guardrail, and two others ran into parked vehicles.

LOCATIONS

Of the 308 crashes on SR 347 last year, 57 occurred in the vicinity of milepost 185, which is near the Riggs Road intersection. Twenty-five of the crashes occurred around milepost 178, near Casa Blanca Road. There were also 22 crashes at milepost 182, south of Gravel Pit Road, where a crossing carries traffic over the Gila River.

In the city limits on SR 347, the intersection of John Wayne Parkway and Cobblestone Farms Drive had the most reported crashes with 12. There were 11 crashes at the Edison Road intersection, according to ADOT.

One of the Cobblestone Farms crashes involved both alcohol and drugs.

TIMING

January was the worst month for accidents on SR 347, totaling 34 crashes, or 11%. There were 32 wrecks in August and 31 in December. By contrast, July had only 11.

Nearly 21% of all accidents occurred on a Tuesday. Thursdays were nearly as bad with 19% of crashes.

As has been common the past several years, most collisions occurred during “rush hour.” Nearly 23% occurred between 5 and 8 a.m. and 24% between 3 and 6 p.m.

(ADOT)

 

Pinal County was again third in the state in traffic collisions, injuries and fatalities in 2019, according to the annual Arizona Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report.

There were 4,357 highway accidents reported in Pinal County, a drop of 11 compared to 2018. Of the state’s 129,750 crashes, 75% were in Maricopa County. The next closest was Pima County with 8% of the collisions.

Arizona gained about 70,000 drivers, and the number of crashes rose accordingly. But the number of fatalities resulting from those wrecks was down. In fact, the total number of crash-related fatalities, 982, was at its lowest in three years.

The Arizona Department of Transportation produces the annual Motor Vehicle Crash Facts Report, which is a compilation of traffic crash reports provided by law enforcement agencies around the state. The report reflects crash data for all Arizona roadways, including city streets, county roads, reservation roads and state highways.

Pinal County, according to the report, had 1,969 crash-related injuries in 2019 and 69 deaths. Both those totals are down from 2018, when there were 2,009 injuries and 72 deaths.

While the total number of Arizona fatalities decreased, the total number of crashes in Arizona rose by 1.6% from 2018 to 2019. In the same timespan, Arizona saw the total number of licensed drivers increase by 1.3% to 5.38 million.

Driver behavior is a factor in more than 90% of collisions. Around 32% involved speeding. The good news is the reported decrease in impaired driving, distracted driving and the number of people not wearing seatbelts.

ADOT reported nine in 10 Arizonans buckle up, but more than a quarter of all those killed every year on our roads aren’t wearing seat belts.

The report shows that at least 10,491 drivers involved in collisions during 2019 engaged in “distracted driving behavior.” This is an 11.8% decrease from 2018, when the figure was 11,898. In April 2019, when Gov. Doug Ducey signed HB 2318, it became illegal for drivers to talk or text on a cellphone while driving unless the device is in a hands-free mode.

And, while the number of traffic collisions involving motorcycles and bicycles continued a downward trend, the number of fatalities caused by those collisions rose in 2019.

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A cattle guard needs repair, which will cause some overnight restrictions Friday on Old Maricopa Road, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

The road provides access from State Route 347 to Wild Horse Pass Casino and other Gila River properties, most of which are temporarily closed as mitigation efforts against COVID-19.

ADOT has planned alternating lane closures on northbound and southbound Old Maricopa Road between 8 p.m. Friday and 4 a.m. Saturday. The work is near the intersection with SR 347.

Traffic will still be able to use Old Maricopa Road. Drivers are advised to slow down and use caution around personnel and equipment.

The auto-repair portion of NAPA is scheduled to close Feb. 1.

Tom and Tena Dugan, owners of NAPA in Maricopa, announced the auto-repair half of the business, Mel’s Auto, will close Feb. 1. The auto-parts store will remain open “as we prepare for the construction of a new building,” they announced in a statement.

The repair equipment will be moved to their Stanfield location. A concierge service is to planned to open by April, at which point they will operate on an appointment-only basis. The Dugans have owned the business since 2002. They said they will continue to be involved in the community as they have since the 1990s.

“We thank all our customers who have remained loyal since we took ownership in 2002. Those of you who went above and beyond to utilize our service during the construction deserve a medal for braving the closures and police intervention to have your vehicles worked on. Please remember to utilize the “mom & pop” businesses here in town. They are the ones that support our community and have the loyalty you have found with us. Thank you for 18 years of support of our auto repair,” they stated.

The State of Arizona, through the Department of Transportation, bought the NAPA building as part of the overpass construction with the intention of demolishing it. Earlier, the property belonged to Don Pearce, who bought it as Valley Auto Parts in 1959.

In August, the Maricopa City Council approved a contract to sell two acres of Estrella Gin Business Park on Edison Road to Mels’ Auto/NAPA for around $150,000.

Before Thanksgiving, the final work on the State Route 347 grade-separation project should be mostly completed, barring more rain, which is predicted Wednesday.

Arizona Department of Transportation road crews starting striping roadways Sunday. Drivers are urged to use caution and watch for construction personnel in work areas.

Monday, crews continue striping on Honeycutt Road, Honeycutt Avenue and Plainview Street.

From 10 p.m. Tuesday until 5 a.m. Wednesday, crews are expected to finish striping Maricopa Road and Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway between SR 347 to Maricopa Groves Parkway. The roads will be narrowed to one lane only or one lane in each direction to allow one side of the road to be striped at a time.

Striping work on SR 347 will be completed under “rolling closures,” which is a common highway traffic control technique used for construction activities requiring short-term road restrictions. Please take extra care when driving past the mobile striping operation, and do not drive on wet pavement markings.

When the striping work is completed, the $23 million construction project to build a new overpass over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks in Maricopa will be substantially completed. Construction activities may continue off and on over the next few months, but impacts to drivers should be minimal.

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A public hearing tonight will allow participants to learn more about and comment on a Draft Environmental Assessment on improvements proposed for 11 miles of Interstate 10 between the Interstate 17 “Split” interchange and the Loop 202 Santan Freeway.

The Arizona Department of Transportation recently published the Draft Environmental Assessment, which is available for review at azdot.gov/I10BroadwayCurve. Printed copies are available at locations listed on the study website.

The public hearing on the Draft Environmental Assessment is scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel at 2100 S. Priest Drive in Tempe. The hearing will include presentations at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., and members of ADOT’s study team will be available to answer questions.

Those attending will have an opportunity to review study maps, presentation boards and videos, observe presentations and make comments.

The Draft Environmental Assessment examines potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed improvements. In addition to attending the hearing, members of the public can review the document online or in person and provide input through Nov. 18.

There are several ways to submit comments:

  • Online: azdot.gov/I10BroadwayCurve
  • Email: BroadwayCurve@azdot.gov
  • Phone: 602.501.5505 (Bilingual Project Line)
  • Mail: I-10 Broadway Curve Study, c/o ADOT Communications, 1655 W. Jackson St., Mail Drop 126F, Phoenix, AZ 85007
  • In person at the public hearing

I-10 in the Broadway Curve area is a key commerce corridor that has seen increasing traffic in recent years, especially during the morning and evening peak hours. In 2018, I-10 west of State Route 143 carried an average of more than 287,000 vehicles each day, making it one of the busiest sections of interstate freeway in Arizona.

Proposed improvements being studied include:

  • Widening I-10 to six general purpose lanes and two HOV lanes between the Salt River Bridge and US 60
  • Building a collector-distributor road system between Baseline Road and 40th Street to reduce the number of lane changes on the mainline and improve traffic flow
  • Adding additional general purpose lanes on I-10 from US 60 to Ray Road and maintaining the HOV lane
  • Modifying I-10 connections and replacing ramps, including new bridges at SR 143, Broadway Road and US 60 to improve traffic flow
  • Adding up to three pedestrian facilities to connect communities

The study team also is evaluating the no-build option – the condition that would exist if ADOT did nothing, which also serves as a comparison.

Comments received previously and during the Draft Environmental Assessment period will be included in the Final Environmental Assessment.

If the study receives the necessary approval, construction could begin in early 2021 and could take up to four years to complete.

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The Arizona Department of Transportation advises drivers to plan for lane restrictions on State Route 347 between SR 84 and Papago Road (milepost 160 to milepost 168) Tuesday through Thursday for pavement preservation work.

Crews are scheduled to complete an oil flush from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Sections of SR 347 will be narrowed to a single lane with flaggers directing traffic. Motorists should allow extra travel time and use caution around construction personnel and equipment.

Schedules are subject to change based on weather and other unforeseen factors.

ADOT tests markings to emphasize reduced limits as part of safety effort

SR 347 at Riggs Road (ADOT)

The Arizona Department of Transportation has added to the ways drivers see the posted speed limit on a stretch of State Route 347.

 

The speed limit is now displayed on the highway pavement in large white decals as part of an effort to improve safety along SR 347 between Interstate 10 and Riggs Road.

 

Testing the speed limit pavement decals is a first for ADOT’s Phoenix-area highways. Standard speed limit signs also are in place adjacent to where the decals have been added.

 

Traffic engineers recommended the pavement decals for SR 347 in areas where the speed limit drops as drivers approach intersections. Decals now help show the northbound speed limit transitions from 65 mph to 55 mph approaching the Maricopa Road intersection and from 55 mph to 45 mph as drivers approach the I-10/Queen Creek Road interchange.

ADOT

 

The pavement decals also are in place along southbound SR 347 approaching the Riggs Road intersection, where the speed limit drops from 65 mph to 55 mph.

 

ADOT’s review of law enforcement crash reports found that officers cited “speed too fast for conditions” as a driver violation in more than half of crashes along SR 347 between I-10 and Riggs Road.

 

Speed limit pavement decals also are being tested at one location along SR 160 in northeastern Arizona.

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ADOT — Drivers who use the new Plainview Street at Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway should plan for a temporary traffic switch while the Arizona Department of Transportation continues work on the State Route 347 overpass project in Maricopa.

Starting at 4 a.m. Tuesday, Plainview Street will switch from one-way to two-way traffic between MCGH and just north of Arizona Avenue in the Heritage District.

While the temporary traffic configuration is in place, drivers will be able to use Plainview Street to enter and exit the highway. During this time, Fourth Street will be closed north of MCGH.

Drivers can continue accessing the nearby businesses and shops located at Stagestop Marketplace by using a temporary driveway via Plainview Street. The traffic switch will be in place for approximately 30 days so ADOT crews can complete their work to widen and reconfigure MCGH near the new SR 347 overpass.

ADOT

The South Mountain Freeway’s first new interchange at 40th Street has opened on schedule, an important step forward for the state’s largest-ever freeway construction project.

The interchange is ready for traffic less than four months after 40th Street closed south of Cottonwood Lane to allow construction of the new interchange.

At 92 feet wide, the interchange has nearly double the capacity of the previous intersection of 40th Street and Pecos Road. It will have two southbound lanes that will continue south of the freeway, two left-turn lanes to eastbound Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway, and a right-turn lane to westbound Loop 202. There also are two northbound lanes, with a left-turn lane to westbound Loop 202, and a dedicated northbound left-turn lane into the Park & Ride parking lot.

The fully functioning interchange includes ramps that will allow drivers to enter and exit the future freeway lanes in both directions. While construction continues, speed limits will remain at 40 mph on both future freeway lanes and the remaining sections of Pecos Road.

In addition, the Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino and the Phoenix Premium Outlets will be accessible either from I-10 and Wild Horse Pass Boulevard, or by taking 40th Street south to Willis Road.

The 22-mile freeway is scheduled for full completion in 2020, although traffic is expected to begin using the freeway earlier.

For information on the project, visit SouthMountainFreeway.com.

Nick Sanchez owns a tattoo business in the Blue Barn, which sits directly south of the railroad tracks and is now on a cul-de-sac instead of a crossing. Photo by Kyle Norby

To say the overpass construction has been complicated for Maricopa citizens and businesses alike would be an understatement.  

The overpass had been a distant dream in many Maricopans minds until the project finally broke ground in late 2017. Numerous local businesses have been affected by the construction, with hightraffic routes being cut off.  

In the early stages of the project, Honeycutt Road was the first long-term road closure, significantly affecting customer traffic for the Maricopa Business Center until the overpass opened in July 

“There were some days that were so slow that I thought I made a mistake,” said Honeycutt Coffee owner Tanya Powers, who purchased the business during the road closures. “Now there has been a lot more foot traffic, and business has been a lot better.”  

With the overpass open to traffic, old John Wayne Parkway’s intersecting roads have been torn up from Hathaway Avenue to Edwards Avenue to develop new routes eliminating vehicular crossing of the railroad tracks. Aside from the inconvenience for local businesses and customers, many owners are claiming they received no warning their businesses would be at a dead end. 

“I think it could have been handled differently,” said Redemption Tattoo owner Nick Sanchez. “It took the whole curb appeal away from a business. I still don’t understand the cul-de-sac thing.” 

ADOT spokesman Steve Elliott said the road plan was developed in collaboration with the railroad and approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission to improve safety. “A key part of the safety benefit comes from eliminating the at-grade crossing next to the overpass while maintaining access to businesses,” he said.

The plan is to re-open the old John Wayne Parkway north of the tracks (now called Maricopa Road) for a direct route under the overpass to Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. South of the tracks, the road will be a cul-de-sac at Edwards Avenue in front of A-1 Pawn and the Blue Barn.  

Mayor Christian Price has said State Route 347 is owned by ADOT and the matter is out of the city’s hands. Early 3D concept videos created by ADOT in 2017 visualize these routes and plans for SR 347, reinforcing the change wasn’t the city’s choice at that point. 

Jim Shoaf, who runs local food bank Maricopa Pantry, addressed the cul-de-sac issue at a city council meeting in July. 

“I think it’s a shame that the powersthatbe can actually command the city to do what I think is not in the best interest of the city,” Shoaf said. “I think it’s going to hurt small businesses in that area.”


This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

ADOT — The new Maricopa Road – between Hathaway Avenue and Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway – will be paved overnight in Maricopa from 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, to 6 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 29, and from 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug 29, to 6 a.m. Friday, Aug. 30.

During the paving operations, access to businesses on Maricopa Road will be limited to side streets and the adjacent alleyway.

After the first round of paving, Maricopa Road will reopen during the day on Thursday, before paving operations start back up Thursday night. The road will remain open Friday while crews adjust manholes and water valves on the newly paved street.

The project is part of the grade-separation improvements that included the new overpass.

The Arizona Department of Transportation is advising drivers that Alterra Parkway will be closed at State Route 347 in Maricopa beginning Monday, Aug. 5.

The closure will remain in place through September as work continues on the construction of a new intersection at Alterra Parkway and SR 347 as part of the overpass project. As a result of the closure, which will begin at 5 a.m. Monday, drivers will not be able to turn west onto Alterra Parkway from SR 347 or access SR 347 eastbound from Alterra Parkway.

SR 347 will remain open to both north- and southbound traffic, and Desert Cedars Drive east of SR 347 also will remain open.

Drivers should use Bowlin Road as a detour.

Still having trouble accessing some of your favorite Maricopa businesses in the shadow of the overpass? Arizona Department of Transportation has released a new map on the current traffic detours as work continues on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. The at-grade railroad track crossing has been eliminated. The former State Route 347 that connects with businesses from Hathaway Avenue to the Amtrak station (north of the tracks) and from A1 Pawn to Honeycutt Avenue (south of the tracks) is the new Maricopa Road.

The Arizona Department of Transportation is advising drivers of the following road closures that will be in place overnight from 9 p.m. Friday, July 26, to noon Saturday, July 27, for storm-drain work in the intersection of Honeycutt Avenue and Maricopa Road (old State Route 347 alignment):

  • Eastbound Honeycutt Avenue will be closed at Maricopa Road (old SR 347 alignment).
  • Southbound Maricopa Road (old SR 347 alignment) will be closed at Edwards Avenue.

ADOT recommends the following detours:

Detour for Eastbound Honeycutt Avenue traffic: Drive west to Hogenes Boulevard. Travel south on Hogenes Boulevard to Bowlin Road, and then proceed eastbound on Bowlin Road to access SR 347.

Detour for southbound Maricopa Road (old SR 347 alignment) traffic: Drive west on Edwards Avenue to Hogenes Boulevard. Travel south on Hogenes Boulevard to Bowlin Road, and then proceed eastbound on Bowlin Road to access SR 347.

The storm-drain work is occurring in conjunction with the SR 347 overpass project.

Restrictions begin July 15 as project nears 80% completion

The following road closures that will begin Friday night

The Arizona Department of Transportation is advising drivers that State Route 347 in Maricopa will be closed between Edison and Bowlin roads from 12:01 a.m. to 4 a.m. July 15.

The full closure is needed as construction crews make final preparations for the scheduled opening of the new SR 347 overpass at 5 a.m. Monday. Detour signs will be in place to direct motorists around the full closure as access onto SR 347 between Edison and Bowlin roads will be restricted.

Motorists in the restricted area when the closure begins should proceed with caution when exiting the area. Police officers will assist with enforcing the restriction and ensuring drivers safety vacate the area.

Other road closures and restrictions will begin after the overpass opens as the project enters its third, and final, phase. These include:

• The Alterra Parkway/SR 347 intersection will be closed in all directions from 9 p.m. Monday to 5 a.m. Tuesday. The full intersection closure is needed to install signal foundations and new poles.
• The full closure of Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway between SR 347 and Plainview Street for approximately three months begins Monday.
• North- and southbound travel will be reduced to two lanes in each direction on a segment of the old SR 347 alignment, between Hathaway Avenue and Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway, through the end of construction in the fall. The segment of the old SR 347 alignment that will remain open after the project is completed is being renamed “Maricopa Road.”

 

Store owner remains unsure about future

Built in the 1950s, the NAPA Auto Parts store has a new neighbor on its east side as ADOT completes the SR 347 overpass. Photo by Jim Headley

The Arizona Department of Transportation has begun condemnation proceedings to take possession of the Maricopa NAPA site.

“We are now in condemnation proceedings to take the entire property.” — Tom Herrmann, ADOT

Tena Dugan, owner of NAPA Auto Parts and Mel’s Auto Repair, located on the corner of State Route 347 and the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway, said she remains unsure where she might move her business. She does not own the building.

Due to the construction of the State Route 347 overpass looming on the store’s east side, ADOT officially acknowledged Friday they are attempting to condemn the property.

The owner of the property in county paperwork is Marathon Enterprises LLC of Casa Grande. Craig Scott is the owner of Marathon, Dugan said.

According to court records, ADOT paid $404,000 in earnest money to the Pinal County Clerk of the Court in 2017 for the property. In February this year, Superior Court Judge Steven J. Fuller issued an amended order for immediate possession dependent on another cash bond of $485,850. It is part of a suit ADOT filed two years ago naming Mel’s Auto LLC, Marathon Enterprises and the Pinal County treasurer as defendants.

Tom Herrmann, ADOT public information officer, acknowledged plans to condemn the property.

“We have converted from what was a partial taking of the NAPA site,” Herrmann said. “Originally, the plan was (to take) a small area on the east side of the NAPA site. We are now in condemnation proceedings to take the entire property.”

He said it remains unknown what ADOT might do with the site.

“We are about to start settlement negotiations. We are not near a final agreement or a price on the property, but that process has started. How long it will take is really up in the air,” Herrmann said.

Dugan said as far as she knows, ADOT is her current landlord and they must give her 60 days’ notice before eviction.

“Every day I have 60 more days,” Dugan said. “I’ve worked with a relocation specialist and I’m just going with the flow. I’m trying to finalize everything, so we can move some place. I don’t have an answer of what we’re going to do.”

Dugan has another NAPA store in Stanfield. Dugan said she could move her Maricopa services there until she lands at a new location.

 

Traffic lights at Plainview about to be operational

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Arizona Department of Transportation


Crews are scheduled to pour the concrete deck for the final section of a State Route 347 overpass starting this week as the Arizona Department of Transportation moves ever closer to opening the bridge and new highway alignment by early summer.

The work is scheduled for 1 to 5 a.m. Thursday, April 25, and from 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 30, to 5 a.m. Wednesday, May 1. For the safety of drivers, Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway will be closed at the overpass and traffic will be re-routed while crews pour the concrete.

Completing the bridge deck above Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway will clear the way for crews to begin paving the new alignment of SR 347.

Drivers should watch for lane restrictions and possible delays starting in late April as workers begin connecting the new alignment with the current SR 347 at Alterra Parkway on the south and Hathaway Avenue on the north.

A new traffic signal at Plainview and Honeycutt roads will begin operating in late April. Plainview is a new street built just west of the Maricopa Unified School District to connect Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway with Honeycutt Road. Northbound drivers on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway will use Plainview and Honeycutt Road to reach SR 347’s new alignment.

The new alignment is expected to be ready for traffic by this summer. Honeycutt Road, which has been closed for the past few months to accommodate construction, will open to the new alignment at the same time. An extension of Honeycutt Avenue, located south of the railroad tracks, also will connect with the new alignment.

Once the new alignment is open to traffic, crews will begin making changes to the current roadway, including cul-de-sacs just north and south of the railroad crossing and just north of Alterra Parkway. That work is expected to be completed by November.

The $55 million overpass will eliminate the need for drivers to wait for trains crossing SR 347. Train traffic and vehicular traffic are expected to double in the area in the next 20 years.

Lights at Honeycutt Road and Plainview are expected to be operational by the end of April.

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ADOT

The Arizona Department of Transportation is conducting an environmental impact study (EIS) to identify a potential 280-mile corridor for I-11 between Nogales and Wickenburg. The Tier 1 environmental review process considers a wide range of Build Corridor Alternatives, as well as a No-Build (do-nothing) Alternative.

Public hearings on the Draft Tier 1 EIS will provide information on the recommended corridor alternative and accept formal public comments via the comment form, verbally to a court reporter, and through three-minute verbal comments in front of a panel of study team members.

Public Hearing Schedule:

Monday, April 29, 2019 5-8 p.m.
– Palo Verde Energy Education Center
600 N. Airport Road, Buckeye

Tuesday, April 30, 2019 4-7 p.m.
– Wickenburg Community Center
155 N. Tegner Street, Wickenburg

Wednesday, May 1, 2019 5-8 p.m.
– Holiday Inn
777 N. Pinal Avenue, Casa Grande

Tuesday, May 7, 2019 4-7 p.m.
– Quality Hotel Americana
639 N. Grand Avenue, Nogales

Wednesday, May 8, 2019 3-8 p.m.
– Tucson Convention Center Ballrooms/Lobby
260 S. Church Avenue, Tucson

Saturday May 11, 2019 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
– Marana High School Cafeteria
12000 W. Emigh Road, Marana

Residents can review the Tier 1 Draft online or at the Maricopa Public Library, or purchase a copy at Impressive Imaging (44480 W. Honeycutt Road, Suite 102).

Public comments are due by May 31, 2019.

Photo by Jim Headley

Ever see a Zephyr fly? Thursday, one actually did in Maricopa.

Maricopa’s vintage California Zephyr streamline passenger car was moved down Casa Grande-Maricopa Highway to make room for the new State Route 347 overpass in the center of the city.

Full Video:

 

GoPro footage:

Shortly after 10 a.m., two large cranes carefully picked up the Zephyr and gently placed it onto a large semitrailer. It was chained down and driven about three blocks down the highway. Again, the cranes picked it up and placed it on its new rails, beside the former Rotary swimming pool.

The Maricopa Historical Society purchased the Zephyr from Pinal County for the sum of $1.

“They were interested in cooperating with us, the City and ADOT, so that this could be put here and be a community centerpiece going forward,” said Paul Shirk, president of the Society.

Funds for moving the Zephyr came from county funds garnered through the Arizona Department of Transportation’s purchase of the property where the railcar previously sat.

“Because of the overpass, we had to move the Zephyr,” Shirk said. “The county was the owner of the Zephyr at that time, so they put that fund up, so the citizens of Maricopa did not have to incur any expense to do this. Now we’re working with the City, and with the generous contribution of the land by John and Marylou Smith, the City can have a park here and we can have a place for the Zephyr.”

Moving a large train car might be a stressful operation, but Shirk disagreed.

“It was a blast. There is no tense, this is just fun.  Too many people say history is boring. Too much memorizing names and dates. We don’t do that. We tell a story in a fun way. Our meeting is every first Monday of the month over at the library. We spend a little time on business and then spend an hour-and-a-half on fun,” he said, adding, “We have a lot of history to tell.”

Shirk, who was a little teary-eyed when the car was lifted off its rails, said he arrived for the move at 5 a.m. and city personnel had everything organized and in place for the 10 a.m. move under Mike Riggs’ leadership.

“Everything just went according to plan. It just clicked,” Shirk said.

Riggs, assistant director of public works for Maricopa, has been putting together the Zephyr’s move over the past 30 days. He said the entire move went without a problem.

“It’s been a great experience,” Riggs said. “It’s great how the City all participated –  the police department and all the divisions jumped in to help. It has been an awesome 30 days.”

Riggs said the crane company that moved the Zephyr, Southwest Industrial Rigging, also moved it to Maricopa in 2001 and will “swing the bridge girders into place over the highway this weekend.”

Friday and Saturday night, the highway will be closed in that section from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. for the installation of the bridge girders.

“It was imperative that we move the Zephyr today,” Riggs said. “We have a great spot for the Zephyr to sit now for years to come.”

Mayor Christian Price said watching the Zephyr fly was truly an event.

“It was amazing to see it come off the track where it’s been sitting for the past decade plus,” said Price. “It was amazing to watch them thread the needle with that train between the two cranes.”

Price said Maricopa has great things ahead as the overpass takes shape to ease transportation.

“We have been working so hard for the past decade on trying to get through the recession and put things in place that will allow for quality of life. Now we are entering the next phase. That next phase is the explosion of Maricopa, from the standpoint of businesses, commercial and retail. That is what we are working towards,” Price said.

In its new home, near Maricopa Veterans Center, the Zephyr will “be a mainstay that represents Maricopa is welcoming to the community and to people who are visiting. We are going to welcome newcomers in and we’re going to make sure that we have a lot of good events for the people who live here,” Shirk said.

Mike Kemery of Maricopa’s VFW post was among veterans who turned out to watch the railcar move next door. He said the historical society was making its future parking around the Zephyr available to veterans for special events.

Rick Horst, Maricopa city manager, said moving the Zephyr in a safe and organized fashion represents the entire community’s structure.

“Many communities are so divided on so many issues. You just don’t sense that here,” Horst said. “That’s what makes this place feel like home. The future is whatever we want it to be. Our goal is to make sure we create a place where everyone can be successful, whether it is a single parent, a family, a business, a nonprofit, the educational system – whatever it is we want to create the environment that the true values of hard work will pay off in this community.”

Photo by Jim Headley

Ever see a Zephyr fly? Thursday, one actually did in Maricopa.

Maricopa’s vintage California Zephyr streamline passenger car was moved down Casa Grande-Maricopa Highway to make room for the new State Route 347 overpass in the center of the city.

GoPro footage:

Shortly after 10 a.m., two large cranes carefully picked up the Zephyr and gently placed it onto a large semitrailer. It was chained down and driven about three blocks down the highway. Again, the cranes picked it up and placed it on its new rails, beside the former Rotary swimming pool.

The Maricopa Historical Society purchased the Zephyr from Pinal County for the sum of $1.

“They were interested in cooperating with us, the City and ADOT, so that this could be put here and be a community centerpiece going forward,” said Paul Shirk, president of the Society.

Funds for moving the Zephyr came from county funds garnered through the Arizona Department of Transportation’s purchase of the property where the railcar previously sat.

“Because of the overpass, we had to move the Zephyr,” Shirk said. “The county was the owner of the Zephyr at that time, so they put that fund up, so the citizens of Maricopa did not have to incur any expense to do this. Now we’re working with the City, and with the generous contribution of the land by John and Marylou Smith, the City can have a park here and we can have a place for the Zephyr.”

Moving a large train car might be a stressful operation, but Shirk disagreed.

“It was a blast. There is no tense, this is just fun.  Too many people say history is boring. Too much memorizing names and dates. We don’t do that. We tell a story in a fun way. Our meeting is every first Monday of the month over at the library. We spend a little time on business and then spend an hour-and-a-half on fun,” he said, adding, “We have a lot of history to tell.”

Shirk, who was a little teary-eyed when the car was lifted off its rails, said he arrived for the move at 5 a.m. and city personnel had everything organized and in place for the 10 a.m. move under Mike Riggs’ leadership.

“Everything just went according to plan. It just clicked,” Shirk said.

Riggs, assistant director of public works for Maricopa, has been putting together the Zephyr’s move over the past 30 days. He said the entire move went without a problem.

“It’s been a great experience,” Riggs said. “It’s great how the City all participated –  the police department and all the divisions jumped in to help. It has been an awesome 30 days.”

Riggs said the crane company that moved the Zephyr, Southwest Industrial Rigging, also moved it to Maricopa in 2001 and will “swing the bridge girders into place over the highway this weekend.”

Friday and Saturday night, the highway will be closed in that section from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. for the installation of the bridge girders.

“It was imperative that we move the Zephyr today,” Riggs said. “We have a great spot for the Zephyr to sit now for years to come.”

Mayor Christian Price said watching the Zephyr fly was truly an event.

“It was amazing to see it come off the track where it’s been sitting for the past decade plus,” said Price. “It was amazing to watch them thread the needle with that train between the two cranes.”

Price said Maricopa has great things ahead as the overpass takes shape to ease transportation.

“We have been working so hard for the past decade on trying to get through the recession and put things in place that will allow for quality of life. Now we are entering the next phase. That next phase is the explosion of Maricopa, from the standpoint of businesses, commercial and retail. That is what we are working towards,” Price said.

In its new home, near Maricopa Veterans Center, the Zephyr will “be a mainstay that represents Maricopa is welcoming to the community and to people who are visiting. We are going to welcome newcomers in and we’re going to make sure that we have a lot of good events for the people who live here,” Shirk said.

Mike Kemery of Maricopa’s VFW post was among veterans who turned out to watch the railcar move next door. He said the historical society was making its future parking around the Zephyr available to veterans for special events.

Rick Horst, Maricopa city manager, said moving the Zephyr in a safe and organized fashion represents the entire community’s structure.

“Many communities are so divided on so many issues. You just don’t sense that here,” Horst said. “That’s what makes this place feel like home. The future is whatever we want it to be. Our goal is to make sure we create a place where everyone can be successful, whether it is a single parent, a family, a business, a nonprofit, the educational system – whatever it is we want to create the environment that the true values of hard work will pay off in this community.”

Detours, traffic-signal timing and trains combine for frequent backups through the overpass construction zone. Photo by Jim Headley

 Getting across the city of Maricopa can become challenging, if not seemingly impossible, at times with traffic backing up in three directions. 

It is all expected with the construction of the new SR 347 Overpass that’s going on in the central part of the city. 

Steve Elliott, Arizona Department of Transportation assistant communications director for public information, stated in a written email to InMaricopa, “With the SR 347 overpass project now in a very busy construction phase, we recommend that motorists plan ahead and budget extra time.” 

One major problem in the traffic patterns is the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway at its junction with State Route 347 in the heart of the construction zone. 

For those using Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway, closing Honeycutt Road just east of 347, which is necessary to make essential improvements, has meant additional traffic at the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway intersection with 347. Some had used Pershing and Honeycutt as a way around that intersection,” Elliott wrote. 

 With heavy traffic, train delays combined with disrupted light cycles leave motorists on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway in longer and longer backups. 

ADOT monitors traffic flow in the project area to assess whether there are ways to minimize delays, but the fact remains that this is a busy construction zone and will remain so for the coming months,” Elliott wrote. “Traffic light timing around the railroad tracks is an ongoing challenge, even without a construction project going on, due to the number of trains passing through each day. ADOT works to adjust signals as needed to reduce delays caused when trains pass. When complete, the overpass will eliminate train delays and improve safety for those using SR 347.” 

 

 

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Highway Patrol stops a driver near the city limits of Maricopa. Photo by Mason Callejas

Beginning Dec. 1, a new $32 fee will be part of vehicle registration in Arizona.

The Public Safety Fee was established by the Legislature through House Bill 2166 this year. It goes into effect for registrations due in January.

Most motorists will pay $32 per vehicle, per year. Motorists can start paying Dec. 1. Street-legal golf carts and primarily off-highway vehicles will pay $5. Those who register a vehicle annually or pay for a two- or five-year registration will pay the entire amount up front for each registered year.

There are approximately 2.3 million vehicles registered in Arizona.

The Public Safety Fee changes the Highway Patrol’s source of revenue away from a gas tax.

The gas-tax account – Arizona Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF) – was established in 1997 to pay for highway infrastructure. For the past decade, much of the Highway Patrol’s budget was part HURF.

The Public Safety Fee will free up all HURF funds to go toward maintenance and construction of roadways as originally intended.

Work on the SR 347 overpass continues along Honeycutt Road, which will be closed until summer between Pershing Street and John Wayne Parkway. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

According to Arizona Department of Transportation, Honeycutt Road is scheduled to close at State Route 347 for several months, beginning Dec. 6.

That means there will be no access from Honeycutt Road to John Wayne Parkway as activity on the SR 347 overpass project picks up significantly entering the second phase of construction.

ADOT will continue to maintain two-way traffic on Honeycutt Road, allowing access to nearby businesses as well as Pershing Street. Honeycutt Road will be closed to all traffic between Pershing Street and SR 347.

On the same day Honeycutt Road is scheduled to close, ADOT will open a newly built road – Plainview Street – that will help drivers navigate around the construction area.

Following are the recommended detours for motorists who normally use Honeycutt Road:

Eastbound travel:

  • Access Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway (MCGH) from SR 347
    • Turn north on the new Plainview Street (located just west of the Maricopa Unified School District building)
    • Proceed east on Honeycutt Road

Westbound travel:

  • From Honeycutt Road, turn south on the new Plainview Street (located just west of the Maricopa Unified School District building) to MCGH
  • Travel northwest on MCGH to SR 347

The closure is needed for crews to begin widening and making other improvements, such as adding new sidewalks, curbs and gutters, to the south side of Honeycutt Road.

Crews will also begin building the new elevation for Honeycutt Road, which will connect with the new section of SR 347 once the overpass is built. In addition, a new signalized intersection at SR 347 and Honeycutt Road will be built during phase two of construction.

The closure of Honeycutt Road at SR 347 is anticipated to be in place until summer 2019.

Intestate 10 near Casa Blanca exchange.

 

A newly approved study will examine potential capacity and other upgrades to Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Casa Grande.

The study will be led by the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), in partnership with Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) and Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT). The I-10 evaluation is expected to take about 18 months to complete, including an expected cost and phasing strategy.

Recently, the Gila River Indian Community Council agreed to participate in the study, which will establish an overall master plan for the corridor.

“The Gila River Indian Community is very appreciative of MAG for spearheading this effort, and we look forward to being part of the team that completes this study,” said GRIC Gov. Stephen R. Lewis. “The Community believes this study will help ensure the safety of the Community’s members and residents of the surrounding municipalities as they travel the I-10 corridor and promote development both on and off the Gila River Indian Reservation.”

The goal is to identify major elements that will need to be improved or replaced and determine how to provide the necessary capacity to meet current and future travel demand. The bridge across the Gila River and the interchange at Casa Blanca Road are two examples of existing structures that may have to be replaced.

“As ADOT has made significant investments through the years to increase I-10 capacity between the state’s two largest metropolitan areas, our plans for the 23 miles across the Gila River Indian Community have always recognized the sovereign tribal authority over this area,” said ADOT Director John Halikowski.

MAG has allocated about $65.5 million for improvements to the portion of I-10 in Maricopa County.

The I-10 study will be coordinated with a study being conducted by MAG in partnership with GRIC for State Route 347, which connects the City of Maricopa to I-10 across the Gila River Indian Community. MAG serves the metropolitan Phoenix area, including the City of Maricopa.

MAG Chair Gail Barney, mayor of Queen Creek, said GRIC input would be an important part of the I-10 study. The economic development activities being pursued by the Wild Horse Pass Development Authority in the northern section of GRIC will be considered in the study.

 

Road construction on Plainview Street and Honeycutt Road continues with the installation of sidewalks, concrete curbs and gutters, and building of the subsurface for the future road. A portion of Plainview will be paved on Oct. 17, with the remainder of the road being paved Oct. 19-20. Plainview Street will continue to remain closed after the paving is completed.

The following overnight closures are scheduled on Honeycutt Road in front of the Maricopa Unified School District Transportation Facility, east of Pershing Street:

• From 10 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, to 5 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 11.
• From 10 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, to 5 a.m. Friday, Oct. 12.

The closures are needed to remove and relocate a water valve under the street.

Construction of the bridge continues as pier cross members are put in place to provide additional support for the structure. The bridge structural work is taking place away from traffic between the hours of 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. one night during the week. MCG will remain open for travel during this time with traffic shifted away from the work zone.

Schedules are subject to change based on weather and other unforeseen factors.

Head to www.OverpassTracker.com for an overview of the project, frequent updates on traffic impacts, project timelines, maps and videos of what the project will look like when complete. The City of Maricopa has also established a 24/7 Hotline for you to call and get answers to more specific questions or concerns at 520-316-6910.

InMaricopa photo

Danger on the road rose last year in Maricopa, according to a state report published Tuesday.

The 2017 Crash Facts for the State of Arizona, an annual summary prepared by the Arizona Department of Transportation, showed vehicle accidents increased nearly 5 percent within city limits from the year before.

There were 298 automobile accidents reported in Maricopa in 2017 – earning the city a third-place rank in Pinal County for the highest number of crashes behind Casa Grande (761) and Apache Junction (456).

Maricopa placed second in the county in the number of alcohol-related crashes last year.

The city experienced 25 accidents that involved alcohol, up from 11 crashes in 2016. Casa Grande again led the category with 26 crashes; Apache Junction followed Maricopa with 21.

In 2017, people injured from alcohol related crashes rose by one (from 9 people the year before to 10).

There were zero crash fatalities attributed to alcohol last year. One death was caused by an alcohol-related crash in 2016.

Maricopa placed third in the number of injury accidents (87), number of property damage only crashes (210), and the number of persons injured in accidents (117). Casa Grande and Apache Junction preceded Maricopa respectively in rank in each of those categories in 2017.

A positive statistic reported in the data showed auto fatalities lowered from the year before.

The number of people killed in Maricopa auto accidents reportedly decreased from three deaths in 2016 to one fatality last year, according to the report.

The statewide report used data compiled from Arizona Traffic Crash Reports that are submitted to ADOT by state, county, city, tribal and other law enforcement agencies, according to the report.

Unincorporated area statistics are not broken down in the summary. View the report here.

Pinal County experienced nearly 4,000 traffic accidents last year – No. 3 in the state behind Maricopa County (93,596) and Pima County (11,707).

In 2017, 1,000 people were killed on roadways statewide.

 

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Another long-standing structure in the Heritage District went down Thursday morning. The former Pinal County Sheriff’s Office substation that most recently served as the F.O.R. Maricopa Food Bank was turned into scrap while subcontractor Breinholt Construction also scooped up the pavement of the parking lot. Former fire department administration buildings in the same lot are next on the list as the Arizona Department of Transportation prepares for Ames Construction to begin work on a new overpass across the railroad bridge. Earlier this week, Spoon’s diner, the Copa Center and other structures were demolished.

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Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Copa Center and Spoon’s diner were demolished Tuesday morning as Arizona Department of Transportation started to clear land it acquired for an overpass across the railroad tracks. There are about three weeks of demolitions in store as well as utility work.

Photo by Mason Callejas

 

Neighbors in a residential area say their quality of life has been disturbed and their road safety is at risk thanks to a speed limit increase on a busy state route.

Greg Swindall, his wife Carol and their friend Roger Tull are Acacia Crossings residents with a bone to pick with the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Their neighborhood borders SR 238 and, for the past six months, their friends and they have noticed an increase in traffic noise and speed.

The culprit?

ADOT increased the speed limit on the highway from 40 mph to 50 mph next to the subdivision in August, and neighbors complain large trucks and other traffic drive well over the new speed limit.

“The real problem is when diesel trucks come into town and they’re engine breaking,” Greg Swindall said. “They’re down-shifting and some of those engines are really, really loud.”

Tull, vice president for the neighborhood HOA board, said residents make regular complaints during meetings against the loud, rumbling noise braking diesel trucks make when approaching John Wayne Parkway.

Carol Swindall was visiting her neighbor one morning and heard a big rig brake just outside the subdivision.

“I about jumped out of my seat. It was so loud,” she said.

But the noise increase isn’t the only issue. Residents say safety is a concern too.

Traffic heading east and west is traveling around 10 mph over the new limits, neighbors estimate, and it’s making access out of their neighborhood more difficult and dangerous.

“Now when they come in town they’re doing 60 to 65 mph, and when you’re turning out of Roosevelt and you’re not used to those trucks being on top of you in a heartbeat, we have pulled out and really had to speed up because you don’t realize how fast those trucks are going,” Greg Swindall said.

Residents expressed their concerns with ADOT online and by telephone, but ADOT redirects their concerns to local authorities or within their own engineering department. The Swindalls said follow-up is non-existent.

“I just don’t understand the rationale of why they did it,” Greg Swindall said. “Why would you increase the speed right behind a residential area?”

ADOT spokesman Tom Herrmann said the reason behind the increase is department staff observed traffic in the area driving faster than the previously posted speed limits.

Herrmann said most of the speed limits in the ADOT-managed stretch of SR 238 were generally 55 mph.

The observation led to a speed study.

“Following the ‘Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices’ from the Federal Highway Administration, speed limits are posted to reflect the maximum speed considered safe and reasonable by the majority of drivers,” Herrmann said.

The majority of drivers defined by ADOT is the speed driven at or below by 85 percent of drivers.

West of Acacia Crossings, the study led ADOT to increase its portion of the roadway from 55 mph to 60 mph.

But residents in the subdivision experienced what they view as a substantial 10 mph increase just outside their neighborhood and would like to see it changed back.

“We aren’t asking a whole lot. Just put it back the way it was,” Greg Swindall said.


This story appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.