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SR 347

ADOT

A 76-year-old male driver died in a crash on State Route 347 today at the Riggs Road intersection, according to the Department of Public Safety.

He was the only occupant of a Honda Pilot that was traveling north when it swerved right, struck a post and rolled onto its roof. The collision was reported to DPS at 4:26 p.m.

The driver’s identification has not yet been made public. He is from Maricopa.

SR 347 northbound was closed for a time, but the left lane has opened, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation. The southbound lanes are not affected.

 

 

Dan Marum of Wilson & Company explains the SR 347 corridor scoping study led by MAG to Maricopa residents at City Hall. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

By Joycelyn Cabrera

Local and state government agencies have partnered to address safety concerns on State Route 347 brought up by Maricopa and other neighboring communities.

The first step in a long-awaited process to begin improvements on the route was a scoping study conducted by the Maricopa Association of Governments. The overall project has MAG, ADOT, Pinal County, Maricopa County, City of Maricopa, Gila River Indian Community and Ak-Chin Community are all working together to address pressing safety issues on SR 347.

SR 347 Alternative Strategies
Corridor Strategies

  • Traditional corridor widening to 6 lanes
  • 6-lane Arizona Parkway Concept
  • Widening to include reversible lanes
  • HOV and/or future transit priority
  • ITS strategies
  • Alternate Modes (pedestrian & bicycle)

Spot Improvements

  • Grade separations
  • Interchange Improvements
  • Intersection Solutions

Potential improvements strategies

  • Alternative left-turn treatments
  • Grade-separated intersections
  • Reversible lanes
  • Median treatments
  • Signage (speed feedback, signal ahead, traveler information)

Mayor Christian Price

The state route’s long and narrow roadway is notorious for traffic jams and car crashes – which often involve injuries. Mayor Christian Price would like to see additional lanes in the route’s future to combat traffic congestion.

“Capacity is a huge issue,” Price said. “The other side to that is we also have to fix the choke-points, which are Riggs Road and also Queen Creek, the exit at the I-10. So, having those interchanges fixed or adjudicated in some fashion is also very, very important to me.”

MAG took the lead on the study and is continuing as the project moves forward with implementation plans after looking at the results and feedback from residents. MAG intends to ultimately provide a safe and reliable SR 347 corridor that supports any forecast future growth, according to MAG’s vision statement for the project.

Chaun Hill, senior engineer and project manager for the study, said, “There’s a lot of different people involved along this corridor. We have ADOT, who owns the state route itself, two Indian communities, Gila River and Ak-Chin, two different counties, Maricopa and Pinal, and the City of Maricopa. So, there’s lots of stakeholders, they all came together to create this vision.”

While ADOT has plans for the future of SR 347, including the implementation of a traffic light at the intersection of 347/Old Maricopa Road and enhancements for Lakeview Drive in partnership with the City, the state agency is also involved with the scoping study done on the route.

Chaun Hill, MAG

Tony Abbo, regional traffic engineer with ADOT, said as owners of the road, ADOT has the responsibility of being, “one of the champions of the study,” and recommendations made after the study will need to have ADOT involved.

Next steps for the project all focus on the vision statement regarding safety and reliable mobility. The local and state agencies will continue working together to discuss different alternatives that meet the needs of all agencies and are based on feedback from public outreach, according to MAG’s Project Overview.

The best performing solutions will be on the recommendation list for improvement at the end of the project before any construction is approved.

City of Maricopa Transportation Policy Manager and Project Manager David Maestas has been involved with the project since it launched in February 2019.

David Maestas, City of Maricopa transportation director

“We have more vehicles on the roadway during peak rush hours than it really is designed to carry,” Maestas said. “You see cars bunching up at the intersection as they come to a yellow light or a red light, and inherently when you get cars bunched up that tight, there’s a higher probability for accidents. So, one of the goals of this study is to keep those vehicles separated with more distance between them.”

A recommendation list for improvements to be made to SR 347 will be presented by MAG to the public and stakeholders involved by February 2020.

ADOT

ADOT

An open house to look at a State Route 347 scoping study is planned at City Hall before Maricopa City Council talks about the issue in its regular meeting.

IF YOU GO
What: SR 347 Scoping Study Open House
When: Oct. 1, 5-7 p.m.
Where: Maricopa City Hall, 39700 Civic Center Plaza

The study corridor runs from Peters and Nall Road north to Interstate 10. The study is being conducted by Maricopa Association of Governments. The road involves Maricopa and Pinal counties, the City of Maricopa, Gila River Indian Community and Ak-Chin Indian Community. At the top of the list of goals for the improvement strategies is “optimize travel time.”

The open house is scheduled from 5-7 p.m. Afterward, during the council meeting that starts at 7 p.m., there will be a MAG presentation on the current status of the study.

According to a PowerPoint to be presented, the study will evaluate improvement alternatives and look at improvement strategies.

Potential improvements are listed as:

• Alternative left-turn treatments
• Grade separated intersections
• Reversible lanes
• Median treatments
• Signage (speed feedback, signal ahead, traveler information)

Improvements to SR 347 are part of Pinal County’s Regional Transportation Authority. Voters approved the RTA transportation plan (Prop 416) and a funding mechanism (Prop 417) in 2017, but a lawsuit brought by the Goldwater Institute over taxes involved in Prop 417 continues in the courts.

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.

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.

Residents walked and pedaled over the overpass Saturday morning. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

As a freight train blasted its horn and rumbled under the new overpass, people standing above whooped in victory.

Vice Mayor Henry Wade put it into words: “You ain’t the boss of me no more.”

The City of Maricopa put together a ceremony Saturday with a ribbon-cutting atop the State Route 347 overpass ahead of the actual opening of the bridge to traffic planned for Monday at 5 a.m. Budgeted for $55 million, the overpass was given state funding in 2014. The City of Maricopa is paying $15 million, and so is the federal government (through a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant).

The official groundbreaking was Nov. 20, 2017.

With traffic bottle-necked and even stopped dead at the junction of SR 347 and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, the idea of an overpass had been floated before incorporation. The long stops of Amtrak trains and increasingly frequent appearances of freight trains have delayed years of Maricopa drivers.

Mayor Christian Price noted the amount of time it took to get funding for the project long before construction began. “You can say that we need something all day long,” Mayor Christian Price said. “We know the 347 has its challenges. I’ve been working on that for six and a half years, and it’s going to take another six and a half years. But, you know what? If you don’t start working on it now, when it gets to be a real problem – I mean a real problem – you won’t be ready for it.”

Former mayor and former chairman of the State Transportation Board Kelly Anderson worked on making an overpass a reality since he was mayor. He said the opening of the overpass was surreal.

“I don’t have a feeling because I’m numb,” he said.

On the State Transportation Board, he said he learned the compromises and negotiations necessary to get projects done, including getting an overpass over the UP tracks in the middle of Maricopa.

“There’s an ADOT saying now. It’s the ‘Maricopa model,’” Anderson said. “You bring your own money to the model to get something done, and that’s what we did here.”

Along with elected officials, city staff and invited guests, Saturday’s event drew several residents on foot, on bicycles and on scooters, despite the heat reaching over 110 degrees.

“We’ve been excited for the overpass to happen and figured we’d come up to see it,” said Steven Chaston, a Villages resident. “To be perfectly honest, we’re not going to use it much, but we’re really glad it’s here.”

Janee Jackson said the overpass was part of the big improvements that are creating a “new Maricopa.”

“It’s cool because I really don’t want to be here for the train anymore,” said Ridge Rieman, who was with his family on bicycles crossing the bridge.

Thirteen-year-old Eturnitie Henderson agreed. “People have to go to work in the morning and sometimes they get stopped by the train and that causes stress and everything. So, it’s good they have this now.”

She was there as part of Library Initiative for Teens (LIFT). Along with the Maricopa High School Marching Rams and the MHS Air Force Junior ROTC, LIFT involved teenagers in the community event.

Micah Hannam, an ADOT engineer who became a familiar face at public meetings during the design process, reminded everyone the work is not done.

“This is a momentous thing for the community. I’ve only been down here about two years, and already I understand how big of a deal this overpass is,” he said. “There’s still several more months of construction going on. So, with all the traffic changes, please drive safely, drive carefully and enjoy the new overpass.”

Karla Petty of the Federal Highway Administration talked in even more detail about driving habits. “You’re going to want to just use it as a raceway. Please don’t. Be patient. Make the roadway safe, buckle up and be attentive.”

Chris Kane of Ames Construction said the overpass would have “an immediate, long-lasting, positive effect upon the community. You’ve got to be grateful any time you can be a part of something like that.”

 

While many Maricopa commuters have fantasies about the stoplight on State Route 347 at Riggs Road going away and becoming an overpass, the state looks set to create another stoplight on SR 347.

A project in the works would put traffic lights at the intersection of Old Maricopa Road, which is about halfway between the Riggs Road intersection and the Interstate 10 exchange. It is in Maricopa County within the Gila River Indian Community. In fact, Old Maricopa Road is an access to Wild Horse Pass Casino and other GRIC properties.

“We had zero control over this,” Mayor Christian Price said, anticipating blowback from Maricopa drivers.

Brandon Nguyen, an environmental planner with Arizona Department of Transportation, sent out a letter to stakeholders describing the scope of the project. A three-way traffic light would allow traffic coming off Old Maricopa Road to turn left. Currently, those drivers can only turn right.

“These improvements are needed to minimize traffic delays and to reduce the frequency and severity of crashes at the intersection,” Nguyen wrote.

In recent years, wrong-way drivers or impatient drivers have caused fatal collisions at that intersection. Price said he understood the safety concerns because there have been four incidents that triggered a warrant for a traffic signal there.

During special events at Wild Horse Pass, temporary traffic lights at that intersection are already used at a cost of about $18,000 for GRIC. New lights would function the same way but on a permanent basis. Nguyen pointed out that because the work would be entirely within an existing right of way, no easements would need to be acquired.

The City of Maricopa has been pushing ADOT and Maricopa County to get on board with Pinal County’s idea of widening SR 347 in both directions from Maricopa to I-10. What impact a new traffic light may have on those designs is not clear. But it is apparent the opinion of the City of Maricopa had little bearing on the decision.

“The City has no official statement, as that project is a collaboration between ADOT and the Gila River Indian Community, and we have not been part of the planning of the project,” spokesman Adam Wolfe said.

Though having no authority in the decision-making, Price said he did speak to planners to ask for concessions.

“When I found out about this, I knew we couldn’t stop it from happening, but I could go and voice my concerns,” Price said. “I asked them, ‘Can it be a light that is fluid? Can it be red only when someone is coming out of an event?’”

His idea would have the lights only stop traffic on SR 347 during events. The rest of the time, the intersection would function just as it does now, with SR 347 traffic not stopping and no left turn allowed off Old Maricopa Road.

The project is planned to start May 2020, with construction lasting six months. ADOT is seeking feedback from stakeholders on the project through July 6.

The transition of the intersection into a traffic signal will include the “obliteration” of current roadway markings, installation of traffic poles, conduit and controller cabinet, restriping, removal of “No Left Turn” signs and installation of new, larger “Do Not Enter” and “Wrong Way” signs “to meet current design standards.”

Nguyen anticipates single-lane closures on SR 347 and lane shifts on Old Maricopa Road during the construction of the intersection. There may even be a short, full closure of the road when pole mast arms are put in place.


This story appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

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UPDATE: The deceased driver has been identified as Alex Beckley, 42, of Maricopa. A passenger in the vehicle was also injured.

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UPDATE: ADOT says SR 347 is now open in both directions. The incident is now listed as a fatality.

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UPDATE: Southbound lanes have now re-opened. There is no estimate for opening the northbound lanes.

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At least one person was critically injured in a one-vehicle crash on State Route 347 that caused the current closure of northbound and southbound lanes between Casa Blanca Road and Riggs Road.

According to the Department of Public Safety, the incident was reported at 3:43 p.m. south of Riggs. The initial report indicated a northbound passenger vehicle had rolled over and crossed into southbound traffic lanes. Two people were reported to be involved but one is unresponsive, a DPS spokesman stated.

Gila River Indian Community first responders are on scene. Investigators are interviewing multiple witnesses.

According to DPS, tire failure may have been a factor.

There is no estimated time to reopen the highway, according to the Department of Transportation. Traffic is being directed to Interstate 10 at both ends of the affected area.

RIGHT NOW: Crews are on the scene of a serious crash near State Route 347 between Riggs and Casa Blanca Roads near Maricopa.DETAILS: http://bit.ly/2WeCN2Y

Posted by FOX 10 Phoenix on Friday, May 31, 2019

 

Photo by Jim Headley

 

The State Route 347 overpass construction project in Maricopa is right on track.

“We’re making great progress,” said Thomas Herrmann, public information officer for the Arizona Department of Transportation. “A couple weeks ago we poured the concrete on the deck of the portion of the bridge over the railroad tracks. The next big thing is to pour the deck on the section that goes over the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. We’re looking about two weeks out on that.”

Overnight on April 24 and again April 30, the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway will be closed from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., as construction crews pour the concrete deck over the highway.

“So, it will have the least impact on traffic,” Herrmann said. “We’re moving forward on that.”

Herrmann said when examining the project timeline, it looks like the overpass will be open to initial traffic in late June or early July.

“We’re looking at less than three months to open up the new alignment on 347 and have traffic on the new overpass,” he said. “Then we will get over and start making the adjustments on the current alignment of 347. It is coming up very quickly.”

The current alignment of 347 will have added cul-de-sacs, and other roadways will have to be reconnected.

 

“If you go out to the site, you can see new curbing down and those kinds of things to connect Honeycutt Avenue to the new alignment of 347 south of the overpass,” Herrmann said. “Honeycutt Road, which has been closed for a while, will remain closed until we open the new alignment.”

He said Honeycutt Road will likely open in late June.

“It all looks really good,” he said. “You can already see the walls set up, the decorative walls are in place. It is really starting to look like a project that is coming together. It will give us that new alignment that will save people a lot of time coming in and out of town.”

A 26-year-old man suspected of driving while impaired is being blamed for a crash on State Route 347 south of Maricopa Wednesday night. The collision sent a family to the hospital.

According to the Department of Public Safety, troopers received a report at 8:16 p.m. that a Dodge pickup was traveling northbound in the southbound lanes at Clayton Road. Shortly after, calls reported the pickup had collided head-on with an SUV near Miller Road.

A 32-year-old woman and three children, ages 15, 12 and 9, were in the SUV. According to DPS, all of them and the driver of the pickup were able to exit their vehicles. Both the pickup and the SUV then caught fire and became fully engulfed.

The woman and children were injured and transported to a hospital. One was reportedly air-lifted. The woman has since been released. The pickup driver is being investigated for impairment and was taken to Pinal County Jail.

Maricopa hosted a kickoff meeting to find solutions to SR 347 traffic. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

With bumper-to-bumper traffic and frequent collisions on State Route 347 making it the hottest topic for Maricopans, there are plans afoot to study improvement alternatives to the roadway in both Pinal and Maricopa counties.

Monday, representatives of the City of Maricopa met three hours with counterparts from Pinal County, Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), Federal Highway Administration and Wilson & Company to kickoff the studies.

“This study is just so important to this area,” said Charon Hill, MAG project manager.

Amy Moran, senior project manager for Wilson & Company, which has completed transportation studies for the City of Maricopa, said the purpose of the studies is to develop alternatives and evaluate strategies.

Alternatives named by residents include adding lanes and building overpasses. Ken Smith of HDR said the current realities of SR 347 will stymie economic growth in the area.

Andy Smith, general manager of Pinal Regional Transportation Authority, updated the group on the current lawsuit aimed at the funding of voter-approved improvements. The Goldwater Institute sued the Arizona Department of Revenue, Pinal County and PRTA on behalf of the Arizona Restaurant Association over Prop 417, which passed in 2017 as a sales tax to fund transportation projects.

Though the Arizona Tax Court ruled in favor of the ARA, the PRTA has submitted its paperwork to the Arizona Court of Appeals and is awaiting response from the Goldwater Institute.

Meanwhile, the county is still allowed to collect the tax, which has brought in about $13.6 million. Smith said that was within $100,000 of expectations.

Moran said the new studies are meant to help build consensus on SR 347 decisions.

“We recognize there have been a ton of studies done on this corridor,” she said.

However, two invitees not attending the kickoff were the Gila River and Ak-Chin communities. Hill said she would make new efforts to get them involved in future meetings.

That includes the next gathering, planned as a corridor vision workshop in April.

Concerns voiced at Monday’s session included safety issues, future costs and maintenance, failure to align with what stakeholders and the public want, building to standard, educating the public, how long improvement will take to create and how long they will last.

Carlos Lopez of ADOT noted activity on the proposed Interstate 11 is also expected in April with a draft environmental impact statement. David Maestas, transportation manager for the City of Maricopa, explained meetings on I-11 had been delayed until now by the government shutdown.

Andy Smith said it was important to remember the possible impact on SR 347 of any changes to other corridors, whether it is Interstate 10 and its access roads or future roadways like I-11, which is expected to take southern Arizona to the west side of the Valley and up to Las Vegas.

 

A traffic collision is blocking lanes in both directions on SR 347 near Riggs Road. ADOT

Two collisions on State Route 347 are causing traffic tie-ups.

Maricopa Police Department is reporting a “major crash” near the intersection of SR 347 and Lakeview Drive. The northbound lanes were blocked, and traffic became gridlocked at the south Cobblestone light and the Smith-Enke Road light. Maricopa Fire/Medical also responded. Though the scene is clearing, traffic remains backed up.

A collision in the southbound lanes of SR 347 north of the Riggs Road light has both northbound and southbound down to one lane. Gila River and Sun Lakes first responders are on scene. According to the Department of Public Safety, several people are being transported to Banner Desert Hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

ADOT

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ADOT

Drivers who use State Route 347 should plan for an overnight lane closure as Arizona Department of Transportation crews perform pavement-preservation work.

Northbound SR 347 will be narrowed to one lane between Riggs Road and Interstate 10 from 9 p.m. Sept. 13 to 5 a.m. Sept. 14.

ADOT will maintain one lane of travel northbound on SR 347, but delays are possible. Drivers should slow down and use caution around crews and equipment.

Schedules are subject to change based on weather and other unforeseen factors. For more information, please call the ADOT Project Information Line at 855-712-8530 or email Projects@azdot.gov.

ADOT photo

Troopers with the Arizona Department of Safety are investigating the cause of a one-vehicle accident on State Route 347 Tuesday morning.

The rollover crash reportedly occurred Aug. 28 at approximately 8:38 a.m. about a half-mile south of Casa Blanca Road.

“Preliminary information is the female driver of a passenger vehicle lost control of the vehicle, which rolled over and into a fence,” said DPS spokesman Quentin Mehr.

Emergency responders transported the driver to Chandler Regional Hospital. The extent of her injuries is unknown at this time.

Traffic in the area is slowed, but no lane closures are reported.

 

 

ADOT

Pinal County residents have been paying an extra half-cent retail sales tax since April to fund future transportation projects.

Wednesday, a Maricopa County Superior Court Tax Court judge said that violates state law. That puts the breaks on plans to widen State Route 347, at least for the moment.

Now the battle may be fought inside the Arizona Court of Appeals.

Voters narrowly approved Prop 417 in November, the funding mechanism of the Pinal County Regional Transportation Authority’s Prop 416 that would provide a 20-year plan to create and improve roads. That plan seeks to add lanes to SR 347.

Phoenix-based conservative thinktank The Goldwater Institute filed suit in December, challenging the tax’s legality in the case Harold Vangilder, et al. v. Arizona Department of Revenue, et al. Goldwater later motioned the court to delay the collection of the tax.

Judge Christopher Whitten denied the request in March and the tax was implemented April 1. Those funds are held in escrow until the conclusion of the case.

Aug. 2, Whitten ruled the county-wide tax did not coincide with statute as it too narrowly targets a tax on retail and not on all sales tax categories, according to court documents.

The Goldwater Institute applauded Whitten’s most recent decision in a press release published to its website the day of the ruling.

“Thanks to the Court’s decision, Pinal County taxpayers are the real winners today,” Goldwater Institute Vice President for Litigation Timothy Sandefur said. “Had this sales tax gone forward, the damage to taxpayers’ wallets and to economic opportunity in Pinal County would have been immense.”

The Institute claimed the monies collected since April will have to be refunded by the county.

A statement on the Pinal RTA website challenged the judge’s ruling and argued voters knew in November the tax applies to all classifications and not just retail sales. Whitten said the wording of Prop 417 was “insufficient” to establish that.

Pinal RTA indicated the war over the funding may not be over.

“…We disagree with Judge Whitten’s ruling and will consult with outside counsel regarding an appeal to the State Court of Appeals,” according to the Pinal RTA statement.

“I’m disappointed with the ruling, but confident we will win on appeal,” Pinal County Supervisor Anthony Smith said. “The sooner we get this done, the sooner we reduce accidents, save lives and build for the future.”

Requests for comments from Pinal RTA General Manager Andy Smith, Pinal County spokesman Joe Pyritz, Pinal RTA Citizens Advisory Committee Member Tena Dugan, and Mayor Christian Price, who is a Pinal RTA Board Member, were not immediately returned.


This story has been updated to include remarks from Anthony Smith.

ADOT

Drivers on John Wayne Parkway should allow extra travel time this weekend while pavement repairs are made. Arizona Department of Transportation will be making repairs that require narrowing the roadway to one lane in each direction.

The following restrictions are in place between Edison and Smith-Enke roads this weekend:

  • SR 347 will be narrowed to one lane in each direction from at 9 p.m. Aug. 3 to 7 p.m. Aug. 5.
  • Work will occur in the right lane from 9 p.m. Aug. 3 to 7 p.m. Aug. 4.
  • Work will occur in the left lane from 7 p.m. Aug. 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 5.

Crews are scheduled to mill out and replace the pavement in the 2-mile work zone. Schedules are subject to change based on weather and unforeseen factors. ADOT will maintain access to businesses while work is underway.

One of the vehicles involved in a multi-car collision. Photos by Amelia and Daisy Guzman

No serious injuries were reported in a five-vehicle collision on northbound State Route 347.

Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr said five people reported very minor injuries and no one was transported to a hospital. Vehicles, however, were transported from the scene.

The incident occurred at 10:28 a.m. at milepost 185 where blowing dust obscured visibility. Traffic was slowed as state troopers and other law enforcement responded to the scene, but the road was not closed.

Blowing dust continues to be an issue between the gravel pit road and Riggs Road, and motorists are urged to drive with caution.

Northbound traffic on SR 347 north of the gravel pit is at a near stand-still as troopers work a five-vehicle crash in the blowing dust. ADOT photo

A multi-vehicle accident on State Route 347 north of the gravel pit stopped northbound traffic this morning.

According to the Department of Public Safety, five vehicles were involved. The incident occurred at milepost 185 at around 10:28 a.m.

“Troopers and emergency personnel are on scene working to clear the road,” said DPS spokesman Quentin Mehr. “At this time, I do not have information on the number of injuries or severity.”

Blowing dust has been affecting the flow of traffic all morning on SR 347, and dust has been particularly heavy in that area.

Southbound traffic is meeting a wall of blowing dust on SR 347. ADOT photo

Three vehicles were involved in a collision Friday afternoon that closed lanes of State Route 347 south of Interstate 10 and sent at least one woman to the hospital.

The accidents occurred around 2:43 p.m. in the southbound lanes when a Ford passenger vehicle “was traveling at a high rate of speed on the shoulder and then spun out striking several other vehicles,” said Bart Graves, Department of Public Safety Spokesman.

One vehicle reportedly rolled over. DPS said at least two people are injured.

A lane in each direction were open as of 3:35 p.m. Southbound lanes opened at 3:47 p.m.

Photo by Brooke Cook

Wild horses temporarily slowed the commute of morning commuters on State Route 347 Thursday.

At least two horses breached the fenced boundary that separates the Gila River herd from the busy roadway, according to witnesses.

Brooke Cook was heading north when she saw the horses crossing the road around 7 a.m. about a half mile south of Riggs Road.

“Traffic was calm, we just patiently waited for them to cross,” Cook said. “It was peaceful almost.”

Another motorist reported seeing a horse on the southbound side of the Gila River Bridge about a half-hour after Cook’s sighting.

A worker was reportedly cutting the fence to help the horse back to safety.

ADOT

 

The Goldwater Institute’s lawsuit against the Pinal Regional Transportation Authority Plan (RTA) is in the hands of a judge as of May 21, and a ruling is expected at the end of June or the beginning of July.

Whatever the outcome, RTA officials are moving forward with preparations to put the voter-approved project in motion. The project includes additional lanes on State Route 347. The half-cent sales tax to pay for the RTA went into effect April 1.

Andy Smith, RTA general manager, said the organization has been working with Maricopa and Casa Grande to seek grant opportunities for the east-west corridor. That four-lane, 21-mile project connecting Maricopa with Interstate 10 in Casa Grande was estimated in the election pamphlet to cost $67.2 million. That has now been refigured to $74 million.

The east-west corridor had been marked for Phase I but is now in Phase III (years 2029-33).

The widening of State Route 347 from Maricopa to the Maricopa County line has seen its estimated cost reduced from $28.8 million to $23 million. That work is slated for 2021-22, Phase I of the RTA.

Smith told the Pinal County Board of Supervisors the RTA is working with Maricopa Association of Governments and Gila Riva Indian Community.

“The RTA has pledged $100,000 to $150,000 to help facilitate funding” to help create a design concept report for SR 347 for the entire stretch from Maricopa to Interstate 10 in Maricopa County, he said, adding the City of Maricopa is part of the discussions as well.

He said the Department of Revenue is two months in arrears on its tax collections. The collections that started in April are held in escrow.

District 4 Supervisor Anthony Smith of Maricopa encouraged RTA officials to start moving as they await the ruling on the Goldwater case.

“Get as many things as shovel-ready as possible, especially the priority-one projects,” he said. “Because hopefully there will be a federal transportation bill that will come at some point or there will be grant opportunities.

“If we are prepared and we’ve got the engineering done and we’ve got maybe some of the right-of-way acquisition – and the more steps we have so that we’re truly shovel-ready – the more we’re going to get mileage out of the money that we put into this.”

Andy Smith said the RTA wants a representative of Arizona Department of Transportation on its board to help with more collaboration. Mayor Christian Price is on the board, Maricopa Public Works Director Bill Fay is on the technical Transportation Advisory Committee. Maricopa’s Tena Dugan and Terri Crain are members of the Citizen Transportation Advisory Committee, answering to the Board of Directors. Dugan chairs the committee.

The RTA includes 15 transportation improvement projects around the county.

PinalRTA.org


This story appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

Two juveniles in a crosswalk were injured Monday when they were struck by a vehicle making a left turn.

According to Maricopa Police Department, the two juveniles had the right of way while crossing State Route 347 on Bowlin Road at around 6:24 p.m. The vehicle, driven by Izmenia Ledezma, was traveling east on Bowlin and turning north onto SR 347.

The juveniles suffered minor injuries, described as scrapes and bruises, but no broken bones. They were transported to a hospital as a precaution.

Ledezma stopped after the collision.

According to MPD, she was cited for failure to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.

 

Gov. Doug Ducey, running for re-election, addresses the Pinal Partnership. Photo by Michelle Chance

Gov. Doug Ducey highlighted a major project in Maricopa during a Friday morning networking event in Casa Grande.

The discussion happened at The Property Conference Center June 1. The event was hosted by Pinal Partnership.

Ducey said he wants to bring “commitment for resources” toward infrastructure projects in the region like Maricopa’s future State Route 347 overpass.

“State Route 347 (overpass) is going to be traveled every morning and every evening,” Ducey said. “It can use some investment.”

The $55 million project was partially funded from the city, the Arizona Department of Transportation and a $15 million TIGER grant. The grade-separation is projected to transport motorists over the Union Pacific Railroad by 2019.

Ducey’s half-hour long speech touted legislative actions at the state level. On the top of the list were tax cuts and 160,000 new private sector jobs in Arizona since 2015, according to the governor.

“The last time unemployment was this low, you were renting your movies at Blockbuster,” Ducey said.

Education spending was also considered a victory.

Ducey approved funding for a 20 percent salary increase for teachers last month. One percent of that figure was dispersed to districts last school year.

“We just finished one of the most significant Legislative sessions in our state’s history. These are teachers that have earned this pay increase and they deserve it because Arizona children are improving faster in math and reading than any other kids in the country,” Ducey said.

Arizona is working to combat its challenges, according to its highest elected official.

Ducey outlined the state’s plan to combat the opioid addiction crisis that has stricken most of the country.

Tackling Arizona’s portion of the nation’s border security is an issue Ducey said requires a careful balance.

While combating human trafficking, drug cartels and illegal immigration at the Mexico border, Ducey said keeping a positive relationship with Arizona’s No. 1 trade partner is also priority.

“I don’t want to see us build a wall around the economy,” he said.

'Dancing this dance of sensitivity'

ADOT

A joint-litigation attorney for Pinal County Regional Transportation Authority wrote a letter to the Department of Revenue on Wednesday asking when and how the voter-approved half-cent sales tax will be implemented.

The sales tax is the funding mechanism for countywide road improvements, including the widening of State Route 347. RTA-related propositions 416 and 417 were approved in November.

PRTA General Manager Andy Smith told board members Wednesday a response from ADOR is expected by Feb. 5.

A sticking point in the progress of RTA planning is a lawsuit filed by the Goldwater Institute in December challenging the validity of the half-cent sales tax. Goldwater’s attorneys claim Prop 417 exceeds the county authority by taxing only items below $10,000, “creating a new tax classification instead of a variable rate and violates the Equal Protection Clause by taxing transactions below an arbitrary threshold amount but not above that amount.”

The Goldwater Institute is suing Pinal County, PRTA and the Department of Revenue on behalf of two county residents and the Arizona Restaurant Association.

Smith said the respective attorneys “have been having conversations” to create briefs and establish “stipulated facts.”

The PRTA board has hopes for an April 1 implementation of the tax.

Maricopa Mayor Christian Price, a member of the board, explained the challenges of SR 347, both geographically and politically. The main agencies involved in adding lanes to the highway are PRTA, Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), Gila River Indian Community and Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG).

“It’s an incredibly complex road,” Price said. “It’s on Gila River land, it crosses county lines, it’s a state-owned road, it’s the city of Maricopa pushing for it.”

To prevent bottle-neck at the county line, “we need help on the Maricopa County side,” Price said. Maricopa leaders have been in discussions with MAG and Gila River for years. MAG specifically has discussed solutions for problems at interchanges at Riggs Road and old Maricopa Highway (Wild Horse Pass) and the possibility of using MC Prop 400 funds for improvements.

In the ongoing discussions, the sour relationship between Gila River and ADOT is “throwing things out of whack,” Price said. Gila River sued the state in 2015 over the South Mountain Freeway construction.

“MAG is conducting the scoping study, and we’ll kind of leave it in their hands because of the sensitivities,” Price said.

“Obviously, to come up with a fix for you all in Maricopa, that’s going to take Maricopa County to get involved,” county Supervisor Pete Rios said. He warned that often Native American communities are planning “seven generations down the road. We do need to be sensitive to where some of these tribes are coming from.”

Price said he has been working with Gila River Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis for two years. “We’re really trying to dance this dance of sensitivity,” he said.

The RTA plan is to provide $28.8 million over the next five years to fund additional lanes for nine miles of SR 347.


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ADOT

A two-vehicle collision has delayed southbound traffic on State Route 347 at Riggs Road.

The accident occurred Wednesday at 2:25 p.m. between a Nissan sedan and a Jaguar sports car, said Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves.

“At this point it is a serious injury collision at that intersection,” Graves said. “One vehicle may have T-boned the other.”

Emergency crews transported one male driver to the hospital. It is still unknown which vehicle he was driving at this time.

This is a developing story.


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The Highway Patrol will be looking for speeders Wednesday morning.

Department of Public Safety Sgt. Steven Sekrecki said a special detail is planned for 7 a.m. to noon on State Route 347 between Maricopa and Interstate 10. State Troopers will be aided by units from Maricopa Police Department, Sekrecki said, but the number of law enforcement officers has not been announced.

He said DPS warns people ahead of conducting these details because the goal is slowing down traffic rather than ticketing drivers.

North Bound 347 | In Maricopa | Photographer Jonathan Williams

The success of two transportation propositions on Tuesday’s ballot opens “possibilities” for Maricopa, according to Mayor Christian Price, but leadership will be mandatory.

Prop 416 passed by a 6,400-vote margin. Prop 417 passed by a 901-vote margin.

Even if the half-cent sales tax in Prop 417 brings the kind of revenue expected for the Pinal County road improvements connected to Prop 416, the widening of State Route 347 has complications. One of those is the sizable portion of SR 347 in Maricopa County.

“It would be silly to [improve] just part of the road,” Price said. “But we can say we are bringing $30 million to the table.”

The project of adding a lane in each direction is preceded by engineering studies, environmental studies, the National Environmental Policy Act process and design work. Before any of that, a successful project can only start through cooperation with Gila River Indian Community, Arizona Department of Transportation and Maricopa Association of Governments.

Price said they are all “very well aware” of the efforts of the City of Maricopa and Pinal County to take action on SR 347. Procuring funding, he said, was the ignition for starting a project.

There is no guarantee all parties who are impacted by SR 347 will be on board with any project moving forward.

“That’s the trick of voter referendum,” Price said. “You can’t make them do something.”

The mayor, however, sees it as an opportunity for officials in both counties to show cooperation, investment and leadership. That, Price said, could set them up for another federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. A TIGER grant was crucial for the overpass project in Maricopa.

A TIGER grant is the opportunity for millions more in funding for road widening, drainage or even an overpass, Price said. The federal grant also puts a tight timeline on projects it funds.

An outspoken opponent of prop 416 and 417 sees darker opportunities wrought by the passage of the measures, however.

“The narrow passing of Prop 417 represents a big win for special interest, bloated bureaucracy and prime opportunities to misuse taxpayer money,” said Alan Marchione, a former city councilmember in Maricopa. “A lawsuit is sure to follow, as the structure of the tax is not legal under existing state statute, whereas the county cannot set an arbitrary cap on the uniform implementation of sales tax. The county knew this, and proceeded anyhow. This exudes poor ethics and professionalism on the part of Pinal County supervisors.”

Marchione said while the county needs improved infrastructure, but these propositions were not the answer.

“The plan for Maricopa’s SR 347 is limited in its vision towards a long-term solution for improving traffic flow,” he said.

The 18 proposed projects included in the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) plan include three in the Maricopa area. The SR 347 project is widening nine miles of highway for $28.8 million. That is slated for Phase 1 of the RTA.

The second Maricopa-related project is the East-West Corridor. That is the widening of Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway from Maricopa to Val Vista Road, and then widening that road and making it a straight shot to Interstate 10 north of Casa Grande.

A third project south of Maricopa is the creation of a West Pinal Freeway. That new roadway would carry westbound traffic off of Interstate 8 at Casa Grande, north on Montgomery Road and then west on a new road north of and parallel with Highway 84 before turning north into Maricopa County.

Other projects around the county include improvements on SR 287 and Selma Highway and new north-south roadways. Price said if officials cannot make progress in improving SR 347, the money will be turned over to other Maricopa road projects.

The anticipated revenue from Prop 417 is $640 million.

“We appreciate voters taking this step with us to improve it,” Steve Miller, chairman of the Yes on Propositions 416 and 417 campaign, said in a statement Thursday. “More jobs, better public safety, safer roads and an enhanced quality of life will be the result.

“It was a robust debate over the past couple of months. The many voices should be commended for weighing in. We hope all will now be respectful of the will of our more than 40,000 people that cast ballots.”

by -
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.

A freight train rolls across SR 347, delaying traffic in a familiar scene for Maricopans. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A formal groundbreaking for the construction of an overpass on State Route 347 across the Union Pacific Railroad tracks will take place Nov. 20. A ceremony is set at 10 a.m. at the northeast corner of John Wayne Parkway and Honeycutt Road.

Coming in more than $5 million under project estimates, Ames Construction was chosen as the general contractor to build the overpass and realign local streets. Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman Tom Hermann said the work will begin within 60 days of Ames being selected, which occurred Sept. 15.

Based in Scottsdale, Ames has 750 days to complete the project. Its winning bid was $23.1 million. The City of Maricopa is contributing almost $14 million to the project, which has a total estimate of $55 million.

The first construction is expected to take place away from the current roadway.

“The early stages of the project will mean few, if any, traffic restrictions,” Hermann said. “Most of the work will be done in the future path of SR 347, east of the current alignment. We recognize the importance of both SR 347 and Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway, and we’ll work to keep any restrictions to a minimum.”

The project will create a six-lane overpass from Hathaway Avenue south to Desert Cedars Drive. It includes the realignment of Honeycutt Road, Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway and Honeycutt Avenue.

 


A version of this story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.