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The Chevron station near the new overpass has seen business fall off 50% to 60% since State Route 347 was realigned as part of the project, according to its owner.
Vimal Patel

The overpass is generally considered a huge success for the city, but there was collateral damage for some businesses working in the shadows of structure.

Vimal Patel, the owner of the Chevron gas station and shop, was blunt about the effect of the project on his business:

“Very bad. We end up doing 50% to 60% (less) business now. They just put us on the side. The city doesn’t even care.”

At the Country Stylin’ Salon in the Maricopa Manor Business Center, owner Janine Spencer said her business has suffered tremendously since the bridge opened in July 2019:

Janine Spencer

“I lost half my stylists and half my business, and we still haven’t recovered …. I hope to stay in business. The bridge kind of kicked our butt.”

A year later, overpass ‘opens up the city’

$55 million project spurs commercial, residential development

Rudy Duran


At the Smokers Edge Smoke and Vape shop in the same shopping center, employee Rudy Duran said a falloff during the months the overpass took shape has mostly dissipated.

“During construction we took a little hit there. Now that it’s all done, we’re doing pretty good.”

This story appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.



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.

State Route 347, aka Maricopa Road, has been known as John Wayne Parkway since the early days of Rancho El Dorado. Photo by Bob McGovern
Bronze statue of John Wayne, “the Duke,” at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California, by Robert Summers.

After a group in Orange County, California, started a movement to remove John Wayne’s name from the airport in Santa Ana, the chatter began locally about whether the actor’s name should be on John Wayne Parkway in Maricopa.

It all goes back to quotes from a wide-ranging 1971 interview Wayne gave Playboy magazine that included philosophical comments about African Americans and Native Americans at a time of deep political unrest.

The parallels with modern conflicts have brought the interview back to the surface.

The Democratic Party of Orange County created a legislative resolution condemning the “racist and bigoted statements” and urging the county supervisors to rename the airport.

A Facebook group of about 10 people, calling itself “Rename John Wayne Parkway in Maricopa Arizona,” was launched June 27, requesting the removal of “The Duke’s” name, resulting in new addresses for many businesses. Group creator “Kiki LaPue” introduced the concept with the post: “Did you know that John Wayne hated Black people, Native Americans and gay people? No reason to give someone like that a name-sake. I say we demand that the city change it and let native and Black residents choose what to call it.”

But the man who originated the idea of dubbing the stretch of Maricopa Road through town as John Wayne Parkway does not agree.

“Isn’t that unreal?” said Mike Ingram, founder and chairman of El Dorado Holdings, which developed Rancho El Dorado, The Duke golf course, The Villages and The Lakes.


Ingram said he introduced the idea, but insisted it was the residents of Maricopa and Ak-Chin who wanted to name the road John Wayne Parkway to honor the impact he had on the area for many years.

Ingram said rehashing one interview from 49 years ago was “Johnny come lately.”

“He wasn’t racist. Never ever,” Ingram said.

The interview’s content has been available since it was first published, and Wayne was always public about his right-wing politics. The exchange in the interview getting the most notice now came about after Wayne brought up controversial political activist Angela Davis.

“PLAYBOY: Angela Davis claims that those who would revoke her teaching credentials on ideological grounds are actually discriminating against her because she’s black. Do you think there’s any truth in that?
“WAYNE: With a lot of blacks, there’s quite a bit of resentment along with their dissent, and possibly rightfully so. But we can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”

Long-time Maricopa resident Alice Johnson McKinney, who knew Wayne well as the wife of the actor’s business partner, Louis Johnson, said she never heard him express such sentiments.

“No, no. I had been with him on trips, giving out cards to his fans,” she said. “I didn’t see that. He had friends who were black in the movie business. We had Black people with him here at our home.”


McKinney said she and her late husband, Louis, took Wayne with them to Las Vegas for a Charlie Pride concert, visited the singer and his wife Rozene in the country entertainer’s suite and had dinner with them. That evening resulted in a photograph of Pride and Wayne that Pride used in his autobiography.

She said she heard nothing bigoted from Wayne, though they all laughed at the seeming irony of Pride having a white maid.

John Wayne, 1971
John Wayne, in a photo from 1971, the year of his controversial interview with Playboy magazine. (Source: Wikipedia)

“I never knew him to be discriminatory toward anyone,” McKinney said, “unlike our president.”

She talked with Gretchen Wayne, the widow of Wayne’s oldest son Michael, and with Ethan Wayne, the actor’s youngest son, about the situation in Orange County. Gretchen told her the situation comes up every few years, but she doesn’t think the movement will succeed.

Ethan Wayne is part of a group that started a petition to keep the name of the airport and has gathered “many, many signatures.” He also told her he didn’t think the change will be made.

In a statement released through TMZ, Ethan Wayne said the family knows his father’s words 50 years ago were hurtful, adding “They pained him as well, as he realized his true feelings were wrongly conveyed.”

Ethan Wayne’s statement also claims his father’s archival records show he did not support white supremacy. “Those who knew him knew he judged everyone as an individual and believed everyone deserved an equal opportunity. He called out bigotry when he saw it.”

‘THAT WAS THE ‘60s AND ‘70s’

Henry Wade, a member of Maricopa City Council, said he sees the “major trend in correcting things that were wrong” by taking down monuments celebrating the confederacy in the South. The situation with John Wayne’s name is difficult.

He said he wanted to see exactly what Wayne said before making a judgment, “to see if it was something he felt in his heart of hearts.”

Wade said no constituents have approached him about the matter. He also recognizes the discomfort such words bring into community conversations.

“Certainly, if it’s someone you have high regard for, you don’t want to believe that they would say such things or feel such a way,” Wade said, adding that in the era, “that was the ‘60s and ‘70s, I think there are a lot of people who said and did things they wouldn’t want to be held accountable for today and maybe not even feel the same way.”

The Playboy interview, besides including a couple of common-at-the time but derisive terms for gays, also hit a sore spot with Wayne’s take on Native American circumstances, including:

“PLAYBOY: For years American Indians have played an important—if subordinate—role in your Westerns. Do you feel any empathy with them?
“WAYNE: I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that’s what you’re asking. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

McKinney said she was called some years ago by the Wall Street Journal asking if John Wayne should not be honored “because he had killed so many Indians in his movies.”

“I said, ‘You know, it’s not real life. It’s just movies.’”

The question of removing John Wayne’s name from the Parkway has come up on several Maricopa social media platforms in the past week, but much of the response has been strong pushback.

“I think it’s really sad,” McKinney said.

From its beginning, Rancho El Dorado has identified itself tightly with the persona of John Wayne. Though a convenient selling point, Ingram said it wasn’t so much the celebrity factor as the history.

“They knew him. They respected him, Maricopa and Ak-Chin and Stanfield,” Ingram said. “He was so good to that whole community.”

What do you think? Should John Wayne’s name be removed from the parkway and the businesses receive new addresses?

Traffic signal Honeycutt White Parker
A crew works Wednesday on installation of a traffic signal at Honeycutt and White and Parker roads. The intersection is currently a four-way stop. Photo by Kyle Norby

A long-anticipated traffic light at a busy intersection in the eastern end of the city will keep motorists waiting just a little bit longer.

The signal at Honeycutt and White and Parker roads is expected to be operational in mid-July,  according to Luis Vila, communications coordinator for the city.

Originally expected to be completed by June 30, the project is waiting for delivery of a computer on backorder to control the signals, Vila said. Once delivered, it will take a few days to install and program the computer.

This weekend, crews will be striping the intersection, he said.

Currently a four-way stop, the intersection becomes a bottleneck during the morning and evening rush hours as Tortosa, Rancho Mirage and Sorrento residents drive into town or make their way to State Route 347 for the work commute to the Phoenix metro area.

Traffic backups of 15 to 20 minutes at the intersection are common during those peak periods and get worse during the school year when two schools in Tortosa – Desert Winds Middle and Santa Cruz Elementary – let out for the day.

The cost of a traffic signal is generally $250,000 to $350,000, but this project will cost more as it includes realignment of the intersection and a right-turn lane on westbound Honeycutt, city officials have said.

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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.

A haze across SR 347 is gathering and may precede a dust storm. (ADOT)

The National Weather Service in Phoenix has issued a dust storm warning for northern Pinal County, including Maricopa until 8 p.m.

At 6:55 p.m., a dust storm was moving northward over Pinal County and into the Phoenix area. Less than a quarter-mile visibility with strong wind in excess of 40 mph was reported through Doppler radar. The storm may make travel life-threatening.

Besides Maricopa, impacted cities are expected to be Chandler, Mesa, Ahwatukee, Queen Creek, Gilbert, Tempe, Apache Junction and Laveen. It is expected to impact Interstate 10 and I-17, as well.

Motorists should not drive into a dust storm.


A stretch of State Route 347 south of Casa Blanca Road will be restricted on Saturday and Sunday for work to apply an asphalt sealant to the pavement.

The Arizona Department of Transportation’s fog sealing project will narrow SR 347 to one lane in each direction between Casa Blanca Road and Sudagi Way, south of Farrell Road from 4 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Tanker trucks will be used to spray a liquid asphalt emulsion to help extend the life of the pavement along SR 347. Fog sealing has been done along sections of several Phoenix-area freeways in recent years to refresh the asphalt pavement.

Drivers should allow extra travel time and plan for restrictions on turning movements while the fog sealing is taking place.

SR 347 & Casa Blanca Road Fatal Accident

A 53-year-old man from Goodyear was killed in a single-vehicle rollover on State Route 347 overnight.

According to Arizona Department of Public Safety, the 2003 Chevrolet pickup the man was driving north went off the road near Casa Blanca Road at milepost 181. The driver apparently overcorrected, and the truck rolled. The incident happened around 10 p.m.

The driver was thrown from the vehicle and died on scene. He was the only occupant. According to DPS, he was not wearing a seatbelt. Officers are investigating whether impairment played a part in the crash.

His identity is not being released until next of kin can be informed.


1:30 AM UPDATE | The northbound lanes have reopened.

1:00 AM UPDATE | SR 347 NB is still closed at milepost 182; all traffic must exit at Casa Blanca Road. Still no estimated time to reopen the road.

11:20 PM UPDATE | All NB traffic on SR 347 must exit at Casa Blanca Road (mp 178). There is no estimated time to reopen the lanes.

11:09 PM UPDATE | Gila River Police announce DPS is working a fatal accident accident on HWY 347 at Mile Marker 182. 347 will be closed for an undetermined period of time. Traffic is being detoured at Casa Blanca Rd. Traffic is heavy in the area, drive safely and avoid the area if possible.

10:57 PM UPDATE | SR 347 NB remains closed near the Maricopa-Pinal county line, due to a serious crash. There is no estimated time to reopen the lanes.

10:30 PM  UPDATE | SR 347 NB is now closed due to this crash. No estimated time to reopen.

10:25 Pm UPDATE  | SR 347 NB, near Maricopa-Pinal county line: A serious crash is on the right shoulder. Please watch for slowing in the area.


Honeycutt Paving Traffic
Traffic on Honeycutt Road at Plainview Street was reduced to one lane on Friday morning as a repaving project begins. Photo by Bob McGovern

Workers on Friday began prep work for the resurfacing of Honeycutt Road between Plainview Street and the bridge over Santa Rosa Wash.

Traffic is reduced to one lane on Honeycutt heading east from John Wayne Parkway as manholes and water valves are lowered ahead of milling of the asphalt surface expected to begin Monday and continue through Tuesday.

Paving of the roadway will be done from Wednesday to Friday, with striping set for Saturday, May 16, according to the city’s schedule. Utilities will be adjusted along the roadway on May 19.

The second phase of the project will pave Honeycutt Road from the Santa Rosa Wash bridge to White & Parker Road. A schedule for that work will be provided by the city at a later date.

Vehicles heading east on Honeycutt Road cross the bridge of Santa Cruz Wash. The bridge may require repairs that would close down the roadway. Photo by Bob McGovern

A Honeycutt Road bridge may not get repairs for some time.

The soil under the east and west approaches of the bridge, which crosses Santa Cruz Wash just west of the Rancho Mirage development, has consolidated, or changed, probably due to moisture infiltration from irrigation or stormwater runoff, according to Maricopa City Manager Rick Horst.

The City has yet to conduct geotechnical testing to confirm the source of the problem, but has included funds for testing in its proposed long-range capital projects budget for Fiscal Year 2021, which begins July 1, according to Horst. Funds are also earmarked for the preparation of design criteria to repair the foundations of the approaches, if necessary. The council discussed the project as part of a recent budget meeting.

The two-lane, 30-foot-long bridge, which carries an average of about 8,100 vehicles daily, was built by Pinal County in 2007 as part of plans approved for the construction of the Rancho Mirage subdivision to provide for a dry crossing of Santa Cruz Wash without heading south of town, said Horst.

There are no current concerns about the safety of the bridge, he said.

Honeycutt Road serves as the main vehicular artery for residents living in the easternmost HOAs of the city – Rancho Mirage, Sorrento and Tortosa – so the city will have to complete another road project before starting any work needed on the bridge.

With a bridge repair likely to require a full closure of Honeycutt Road, the city’s official detour would be Bowlin Road, which is currently undergoing improvements due to be completed in FY 2021, Horst said.

The Bowlin project would create a raised crossing over the Santa Cruz Wash south of the Honeycutt Road bridge. The $978,000 project between White & Parker Road and Anthony Boulevard in Rancho Mirage would include a temporary surface treatment to smooth travel over the dirt portions of Bowlin, officials have said. The crossing is needed to improve “vehicular connectivity, improve response times of the fire department and provide relief to congestion on Honeycutt Road,” the city has said.

“With the new signal at Honeycutt and White & Parker, and the addition of the connection along Bowlin Road, there will be adequate travel lanes in support of the growing population in the eastern segment of the City,” Horst said.

In a separate project, resurfacing of Honeycutt Road – from Plainview Street to North White & Parker Road – will begin Friday. The first phase will be from Plainview to the bridge over Santa Rosa Wash. The city has announced the schedule of work for the first phase:

Friday, May 8: Lower manholes and water valves

Monday, May 11 and Tuesday, May 12: Milling of the asphalt surface

May 13, 14 and 15: Paving

May 16: Striping of the road

May 19 – Adjust utilities 

Phase II will from the bridge to White & Parker. A schedule for this work will be given at a later date.

Map: City of Maricopa

The busy intersection of North White & Parker Road and Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway in Maricopa will close at midnight Thursday as work continues on a road widening project.

The intersection will be shut down through the end of the day on Monday, the city announced.

Drivers heading north on White & Parker may detour west on Peters & Nall Road to North Porter Road and follow the detour from Porter north to return to Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway, officials said.

The project, which started Jan. 6, is widening a stretch of Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway between Porter Road and White and Parker Road to four lanes. Paving will continue through Saturday, with striping planned for May 11-13 ahead of opening.

The primary purpose of the project is to “increase traffic capacity” on the 1.7-mile stretch. New left-turn lanes at both ends of the expansion are also part of the project. ADOT is in charge of the project.

The project cost about $3.6 million, mostly from Federal Highway Administration funding. Matching funds of 5.7% from the City of Maricopa came from the half-cent County Road Tax Fund.

The widening project includes a new traffic-control system at White and Parker Road. According to the city, that is scheduled for completion May 7.

As the MCGH project draws to a close, the City is gearing up a project to install a traffic signal on White and Parker Road at Honeycutt Road. That is expected to be completed by June 30.

Any closure of the intersection requires most traffic in East Maricopa to use Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway to reach the west side of town.

Aerial photo of widening project on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway by Kyle Norby (flight courtesy Desert Rat Aviation)

A road-widening project that started Jan. 6 has an end in sight.

A stretch of Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway between Porter Road and White and Parker Road is being expanded to four lanes. The construction comprises  the City of Maricopa’s 2016 agreement with Arizona Department of Transportation.

According to the city’s Public  Services Department, paving started this week and will continue through May 9. The lanes will then be striped May 11-13 ahead of opening.

The primary purpose of the project is to “increase traffic capacity” on the 1.7-mile stretch. New left-turn lanes at both ends of the expansion are also part of the project. ADOT is in charge of the project.

The project cost about $3.6 million, mostly from Federal Highway Administration funding. Matching funds of 5.7% from the City of Maricopa came from the half-cent County Road Tax Fund.

In September, Nesbitt Contracting beat out three others for the bid, which was 7% over the state’s estimate.

The widening of MCGH includes a new traffic-control system at White and Parker Road. According to the City, that is scheduled for completion May 7.

As the MCGH project draws to a close, the City is gearing up a project to install a traffic signal on White and Parker Road at Honeycutt Road. That is expected to begin in two weeks and be completed by the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

Any closure of the intersection requires most traffic in East Maricopa to use Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway to reach the west side of town.

The intersection has been surveyed and pole area marks completed. City staff is requesting an update from the contractor.

A car flipped on its roof after a collision on SR 347 at Cobblestone North.

What police describe as a two-vehicle, non-injury accident knocked out traffic lights on State Route 347 at Lakeview Drive/Cobblestone North.

The collision of the two cars was in the southbound lanes. Speed and impairment are factors, according to Maricopa Police Department spokesman Ricardo Alvarado.

On vehicle rolled over in the incident and landed on its roof. Both vehicles suffered heavy damage.

Police blocked approaches to the intersection from Cobblestone Farms and Rancho El Dorado while officers directed traffic through the intersection on SR 347.

The traffic light control box was damaged in the collision.

Frank Dorizio (ADOT photo)

An Arizona Department of Transportation employee was killed Wednesday while setting up a sign alerting drivers to pavement repairs along Interstate 10 south of the Phoenix area.

Frank Dorizio, 55, was a member of ADOT’s Incident Response Unit, which helps keep Phoenix-area freeways safe by setting up traffic control, removing debris and assisting stranded motorists.

Dorizio is the first ADOT worker since 1998 to be struck and killed while working along a highway.

“While the Arizona Department of Public Safety continues its investigation, this is a tragic reminder that drivers must stay alert around construction zones and always be prepared for the unexpected,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “Lives are on the line when dedicated highway workers like Frank Dorizio are making things better for all of us in work zones.”

Dorizio joined ADOT in October 2015 as a highway operations worker with the Little Antelope Maintenance Unit in northern Arizona. In 2017, he joined the Happy Valley Maintenance Unit in Phoenix. He joined the new Incident Response Unit last September.

“Whether or not we worked directly with Frank Dorizio, each of us at ADOT mourns his loss and honors his commitment to getting everyone safely home,” Halikowski said. “His co-workers and friends say the same thing about Frank: ADOT was his family, and he was committed to our agency’s mission and to the people of Arizona.”

If you live in Maricopa and for the first time received notice on your vehicle registration that an emissions test is required, you are not alone.

Since January, social media posts from worried Maricopans on the issue have become common: “I could not renew my registration on line like I normally do because of the emissions test… I had to fill out a form and take it to the MVD… I had to get an emissions test for the first time ever as well. I couldn’t renew my registration unless I got it done… first time in 11 years… It’s confusing and leads to the majority of people paying for emissions testing unnecessarily.”

You also may not have to get an emissions test. Arizona Department of Transportation sends out the notices as a condition of registering vehicles in Zone A or Zone B, which are primarily Phoenix and Tucson metro areas. It’s a two-department effort, as emissions standards are determined by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

“These are nonattainment areas for emissions related pollutants and include parts of Maricopa, Pinal and Pima Counties,” Erin Jordan, spokesperson for ADEQ. “ADOT says vehicle owners may be receiving these messages since part of Pinal County is in Zone A.”

“Nonattainment areas” are where air pollution levels have not met the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

ADEQ expanded Zone A in the Phoenix metro area into northeast Pinal County, but not Maricopa.

“ADOT is currently improving their notification system to reduce the chance of vehicle owners outside Zone A, such as those in the City of Maricopa, from receiving a message,” Jordan said.

Vehicles registered outside area A and B are not required to have an Arizona vehicle emissions inspection, according to ADOT. However, ADEQ’s exemption application states, “If you live within either of the mandatory vehicle emissions test areas in Arizona, or if you commute into these areas on a regular basis for work or school, you must have your vehicle emission tested.”

While ADOT fixes its notification system, residents can check whether they are in Zone A and need emissions testing on their vehicle by visiting GISWeb.AZDEQ.gov/arcgis/veiareas. ADEQ performs the emissions testing.
“If a vehicle does not need emissions testing based on where they live, ADOT can place an SC52 on the vehicle record so that future renewal notices will not require emissions,” Jordan said.

Make that request at MVDconstituent@azdot.gov.

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The primary Interstate 10 ramps to eastbound Loop 202 (Santan Freeway) in the Chandler area are scheduled to be closed Tuesday through Thursday nights  for pavement improvement work, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Drivers should allow extra travel time and be prepared to use detours while the following restrictions are in place:

East- and westbound I-10 ramps to eastbound Loop 202 closed overnight from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday nights for pavement improvements. Eastbound I-10 HOV lane ramp to eastbound Loop 202 will remain open. Eastbound Loop 202 will be narrowed to two left lanes between I-10 and Loop 101.

Eastbound Loop 202 ramp to northbound Loop 101 (Price Freeway) will be closed. Eastbound ramps at Kyrene Road and McClintock Drive will be closed. Consider eastbound US 60 (Superstition Freeway), Ray Road or Chandler Boulevard as alternate routes.

Detour routes to businesses near Kyrene Road south of Loop 202 include Chandler Boulevard to southbound Kyrene Road.

The Loop 202 improvements, primarily along the eastbound freeway’s lanes between I-10 and Loop 101, include the use of specialized diamond grinding machines to smooth the base concrete pavement. Work is scheduled to be completed later this month.

A collision on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway today claimed a life. The incident occurred around 3:45 p.m.

Maricopa Police Department described the two vehicles involved in the fatal incident as a commercial vehicle and a small SUV. Maricopa Fire/Medical Department stated it was a head-on collision near the junction of Hartman Road.

MPD immediately detoured traffic off the stretch of MCGH between Hartman Road and White and Parker Road. The possible cause of the collision and the identity of those involved are not yet available.

MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said the victim was a 75-year-old female from the Stanfield area, but no name is being released. “We aren’t going to release it at this time per the family’s request,” he said.

It is the second death on Maricopa roads this week. A Mesa resident died in a head-on collision with a wrong-way driver on State Route 347 near Casa Blanca Road early Monday morning.

Police lights

The victim in the fatal, two-vehicle collision involving a wrong-way driver that occurred on State Route 347 Sunday has been identified as Ma C. Ponce, 67, from Mesa, according to the Department of Public Safety.

“[The] name of the wrong-way driver cannot be provided at this time due to the fact that he is hospitalized,” said DPS spokesman Bart Graves. “The male, age 31, is from Maricopa and charges are pending his release from the hospital.”

According to the initial report from DPS, the wrong-way driver was traveling north in the southbound lanes around midnight Sunday when he impacted another vehicle head-on.

More information will be provided once the investigation has concluded.


First responders and witnesses at the scene. Photos by Kyle Norby

A vehicle rolled over on the 238 highway around 10 a.m. Friday.

The vehicle was traveling west on State Route 238 when it attempted to pass another westbound vehicle, misjudging the timing of a vehicle traveling east. The westbound driver swerved off the road into an Electrical District No. 3 powerline pole and rolled. Two people and two dogs were in the vehicle.

“The 2 occupants being transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries,” MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said.

One dog is currently missing.

Arizona Department of Transportation’s work widening the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway will begin impacting traffic on Jan. 6.

For approximately 60 days, MCGH will be closed between White and Parker and Porter Roads. A detour will be set up along Bowlin Road.

Eastbound Traffic:
Left on Porter Road
Right on Bowlin Road
Right on White and Parker Road

Westbound Traffic:
Right on White and Parker Road
Left on Bowlin Road
Left on Porter Road

A series of line breaks this year has Global Water working on preventive maintenance on lines along Honeycutt, causing the closure of part of the road Dec. 26-30. File photo by Kyle Norby

Global Water Resources notified residents by email and door-hangers Friday that a section of Honeycutt Road will be closed after Christmas.

The work between White and Parker Road and North Rancho Mirage Boulevard on the east side of Maricopa is to take place from 5 a.m. Dec. 26 to 5 a.m. Dec. 30. The closure will impact traffic to and from Rancho Mirage, Tortosa and Sorrento.

Global Water General Manager Jon Corwin said the work is for preventive maintenance.

“We are installing a liner in the water main along Honeycutt Road,” he said in an email to InMaricopa. “As you may recall, we’ve had two main breaks over the past three years by the Honeycutt bridge heading towards Rancho Mirage and Tortosa. The intent of the liner is to reduce the risk of future main breaks and extend the life of this water main.”

Traffic, which is already routinely backed up at the four-way stop on White and Parker at Honeycutt, will be rerouted with detour signs.

The public notices stated the project is “designed to protect the long-term viability of the infrastructure.”

In a related update, the full signalization of the four-way stop is expected before the end of June, which is the end of the fiscal year. City Engineer Joshua Plumb said the traffic signal is in the design stage. He said it will not completely offset the current configuration but is expected to move traffic through the area more quickly. It is budgeted for $350,000.

Traffic to and from Maricopa, rather than traffic on city streets, sees the most collisions. (ADOT)

By Joycelyn Cabrera

Driver error, not highways, are the No. 1 reason that serious injuries and fatal crashes happen. Speeding is either a primary or a secondary factor. That’s been the case in several crashes that we investigate. It’s not a highway that rises up and kills people. In very, very, rare cases it’s the way the vehicle was built, but it’s almost always driver error.

Arizona Department of Transportation data shows crashes in Pinal County have increased by 34% over the last decade.

Pinal County is ranked third in having the most crashes in Arizona by county as of 2018, and roadways in the area have seen more crashes every year. While Pinal County residents blame population growth and insufficient roads, state agencies said the root cause has always been driver error.

By the end of 2018, there were 34% more crashes in Pinal County than there were in 2008, an increase bigger than Maricopa County (20% increase) and Pima County (which has seen a 41% decrease), the counties with the top rankings for car crashes in the state.

ADOT Summary Crash Facts. Pinal County has seen a dramatic increase in crashes over the years, out-pacing Maricopa and Pima County. Roadway and image vector templates from Vecteezy.com.

Residents of Maricopa said SR 347 is a major factor in the increase in collision totals for Pinal County, along with narrow corridors such as Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.

David Maestas, former transportation policy manager for the City of Maricopa, worked closely with Sun Corridor Municipal Planning Organization and Pinal County on transportation issues.

Maestas said a transportation concern on roadways leading out of town include the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the roads during rush-hour.

“The population, even today, is putting the roadway in traffic distress because we have more vehicles on the roadway during peak rush-hour than it really is designed to carry and that’s just a function of the population having increased,” Maestas said. “Gridlock is probably the best term to use for it. The way you see in LA and rush hour, where vehicles are going 5-10 mph, people are missing appointments, people are getting to work late, crashes, so there’s a big safety aspect.”

ADOT data shows Pinal County roads leading out of cities result in the highest numbers of crashes. Out of all crashes in the county, almost 51% take place on roads leading in or out of city limits, higher than crash numbers in growing cities such as Casa Grande and Maricopa.

Rodolfo Lopez, planning and zoning manager for the City of Maricopa, said there are multiple factors which could contribute to Pinal County road crashes increasing over the years.  However, he said a goal for the City is to create more jobs in town to prevent residents from commuting while also growing the city’s development.

“We still have a lot of our residents driving out of town into the Phoenix-Metro area or Chandler region,” Lopez said. “Not having a job center in Maricopa is putting more cars on the roadways.”

Census population increases in the city of Maricopa correlate with increased crashes in Pinal County roadways. According to the 2010 census, the city reached a population of 43,482 people, and vehicular crashes reached 1,726 total. Five years later, the city recorded a population that was estimated at just under 50,000 people with a coinciding crash total reaching exactly 2,000 collisions.

By the end of 2018, with a continuously growing population reaching an estimated 54,000, crashes broke Pinal roadways’ record yet again with a total of 2,223 vehicular crashes.

Erin Tucker, a five-year Maricopa resident, said she hears about crashes almost every day and worries about driving with her young children in the car with her.

“I travel the road every day in the morning and the afternoon and I’m constantly having to take alternate routes because there’s so much backup.” Tucker said. “I have actually been looking at moving out of Maricopa just because it is so dangerous.”

Department of Public Safety Public Information Officer Bart Graves, said the top cause of collisions, statewide, is driver error brought on by impairment, speeding, or unsafe navigation on the roads.

“Driver error, not highways, are the No. 1 reason that serious injuries and fatal crashes happen. Speeding is either a primary or a secondary factor,” Graves said. “That’s been the case in several crashes that we investigate. It’s not a highway that rises up and kills people. In very, very, rare cases it’s the way the vehicle was built, but it’s almost always driver error.”

Israel Calderon has been in a coma for three years after getting stuck by shrapnel from a 12-car pile-up at the intersection of 347 and Riggs Road.

The pile-up happened in front of Calderon, sending metal debris flying all around the intersection. His wife Gloria Encinas and son Israel Jr., visit Calderon in hospice care several times a week, according to Tucker, who played on a softball team with Calderon for years before the incident.

“He’s breathing on his own, so the family has been racking up medical bills,” Tucker said.

Annual benefits are held for the Calderon family in the city organized by several members of Calderon’s softball team. All profits go toward medical payments.

While the statewide number of crashes since 2008 has increased, fatalities resulting from said crashes have decreased by 11% over the past decade. Last year, a crash only had a 1.6% chance of ending in a fatality, with total number of crashes hitting 4,368 and fatalities reaching 72.

Photo by Kyle Norby

First responders arrived on the scene of a pedestrian struck by a vehicle at the trafficway leading into the Sequoia Pathway parking lot Monday afternoon.

The victim was reported to be a 13-year-old male.

On the scene, the boy could be seen having trouble standing on his right leg, but no serious injuries were reported at this time. The collision was at low speed, according to reports.

“The 13-year-old ran into the trafficway,” Maricopa Police Department spokesman Ricardo Alvarado stated. “No impairment is suspected at this time on either party.”



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.



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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.

Three people were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A collision at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Maricopa Road next to Copper Sky Regional Park resulted in non-life-threatening injuries Friday evening.

It is suspected a southbound vehicle turned left in front of northbound traffic and collided with the second vehicle, according to Maricopa Police Department. Three people were transported to a hospital as a precaution.

MPD, City of Maricopa Fire/Medical Department, AMR and Ak-Chin Police responded to the scene. Police directed northbound traffic around the incident, but MLK Boulevard was blocked off as first responders worked.



Interstate 10 westbound is closed south of the Valley at milepost 164, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

The closure is due to a crash. There is no estimated reopening time.

Traffic is passing on the shoulder, however backups are expected. To avoid delays, motorists can take State Route 587 north to State Route 87 north. Motorists can then take Loop 202 Santan west to re-enter I-10.


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.

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.

The Arizona Department of Transportation is advising nearby residents, businesses and the traveling public to plan for an extended full intersection closure at Honeycutt Avenue and Maricopa Road as work progresses on the State Route 347 overpass project.

The intersection will be closed from Sept. 30 through Oct. 11. The intersection will reopen on Oct. 12. The extensive work at the intersection is being scheduled to coincide with the fall breaks at nearby Maricopa High School and Maricopa Wells Middle School.

• During the intersection closure, drivers will have to use Bowlin Road to access residences and businesses located on or west of Maricopa Road and south of the railroad tracks. Drivers can access businesses on Maricopa Road, located north of Honeycutt Avenue, by using McDavid Road/Edwards Avenue.
• Drivers in the area also will need to use Bowlin Road to access north- and southbound SR 347.

To learn more about the ADOT project, visit the project web page.

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.



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.