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.