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transportation

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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.

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

Vehicles line up in front of Maricopa High School as classes are dismissed. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

After hearing data from its Transportation Department earlier this month, Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board gave approval for the purchase of seven vehicles for a total of just under $1 million Wednesday.

The purchase is comprised of three new 84-passenger school buses, two new 42-passenger special-needs school buses and two 14-passenger shuttles. The lease purchase agreement shows $199,962.68 annually through Jan. 1, 2024.

Preparing for the lease-purchase, Director of Transportation Sergio Pulido had already outlined for the board the current fleet situation amid a growing student population.

“In transportation, you always want to be an organizational culture that prioritizes people over programs and invests in the support of students and staff,” Pulido said. “Transportation will continue to transport students in a safe, friendly and efficient manner anywhere at any time – let it be transporting students to different school sites, on field trips, routes or even functions for the City of Maricopa.”

Annual numbers
48 buses (including vans and shuttles)
800,000 miles
160 square miles

Pulido said the district’s many unpaved roads are responsible for much of the wear and tear on buses.


Daily numbers
124 general-education routes
72 special-needs routes
315 special-needs students door-to-door


Personnel
40 bus drivers
4 substitute bus drivers
9 substitute bus aides
10 non-CDL drivers (also bus aides)
3 mechanics
5 office personnel
71 TOTAL

Pulido: “Retention is at its all-time high right now, and I’m very proud to say that.”


Aging buses
73% are 12 years or older
17% are 3-11 years old
10% are the newest purchases
Average mileage on current buses 180,000-280,000 miles (expected ideal lifespan 350,000)

Pulido: “Newer vehicles are important, knowing they have reliable vehicles that are not going to break down or overheat during their routes or field trips.”


MUSD Transportation Director Sergio Pulido

DPS inspections
“Last year, yes, we had a few failures. These items were addressed and repaired right away. Buses were back on line the very next day. To prevent future failures, what we have done in Transportation is added a mock DPS inspection to every vehicle that comes into the shop for [preventive maintenance] services. This is important because it would keep the vehicle in compliance according to minimum standards and to the Department of Public Safety. We will continue this practice on any future vehicles that we purchase.”

Air conditioning
“On newer vehicles, we’ve already experienced on the four big buses that we’ve bought in the past, they’re better quality AC units; they’re efficient and they work very, very well. Most of those vehicles are on field trips. Less breakdowns and more efficient units. What we’ve done is taken measures and better steps to improve our AC units, the older ones that we have, so they’re working. We’re replacing the parts, which are filters, condensers, compressors, expansion valves, things like that. We spent quite a bit of money last year on repairing these AC parts on these vehicles.”

Overcrowding
“Student overload, we definitely want to prevent that. We’re not going through that right now, and I’m very proud to say that, but we’re very close to that. Avoiding double runs is another important factor. Last year, we all know that we experienced quite a few double runs at the high school and middle schools. Adding more buses will prevent that from happening.”

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.

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.

BOWLIN ROAD DETOUR
• 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.

We are in the home stretch of the State Route 347 Overpass Project, with completion anticipated at the end of October.
Sept 26: Paving at Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway, Hathaway intersection and Alterra intersection
Sept. 27: Striping at Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway, Hathaway intersection and Alterra intersection
Sept. 30: Closure of Honeycutt Avenue (coincides with MUSD Fall Break)
Oct 11: Final alignment and striping
These dates are subject to change based on weather or other unforeseen circumstances.

ADOT

With a goal of reducing traffic congestion on Interstate 10 near Wild Horse Pass, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), Gila River Indian Community, and Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) invite the public to attend a public scoping meeting. The meeting is part of an environmental study and design concept report. The segment under study is on I-10 between Loop 202 and State Route 387 near Casa Grande.

The purpose of the study is to assess the impacts of expanding the capacity of I-10 from the Loop 202/Santan Freeway interchange to just south of the interchange at SR 387 to reduce traffic congestion in the study area.

Public Scoping Meeting
Sept. 19, 6–8 p.m.
Sacaton Boys and Girls Club, 116 S. Holly St., Sacaton

Public scoping is the first step of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental study process. The public scoping process provides the opportunity for the community to provide information to the study team about the corridor itself, as well as share issues or concerns the public may have about modifying I-10. The meeting will:

  • Provide an overview of the I-10 corridor, the study’s objectives, and the study’s schedule to the public.
  • Get community feedback on opportunities, issues, or concerns related to the study area.
  • Ask the public for input on potential corridor improvement alternatives.

This public feedback will help ADOT, the Gila River Indian Community, and MAG select a Preferred Alternative, either a Build Alternative or No-Build (“do nothing”) Alternative, for this section of I-10.

Comments provided by Oct. 3, 2019, will be included in the study record. There are several ways to submit comments during the scoping process:

Visit the website: i10wildhorsepasscorridor.com
Call the toll-free bilingual study line: 602-522-7777
Email: i10wildhorsepasscorridor@hdrinc.com
USPS Mail: I-10 Wild Horse Pass Corridor Study Team c/o HDR, Inc. 20 E. Thomas Road, Suite 2500, Phoenix AZ 85012

ADOT

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

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

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

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

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

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

For information on the project, visit SouthMountainFreeway.com.

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

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

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

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

State legislator Mark Finchem speaks with residents of Hidden Valley. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Republican Mark Finchem and Democrat Tom O’Halleran agree on at least one thing regarding Interstate 11. Both expect to be deceased before the proposed roadway becomes a reality.

Finchem, a District 11 state representative spoke to Hidden Valley residents last week in a gathering attended by Blanca Varela, a representative from Congressman O’Halleran’s office, at Mountain View Community Church.

The proposed interstate is a long-range goal of Arizona Department of Transportation and is expected to pass through Hidden Valley south of Maricopa.

While Finchem has been outspoken against I-11, O’Halleran has remained neutral. Varela said the congressman had expressed to her the project was too far off for him to take a stand.

Projections are for construction of I-11 in Arizona to begin in 25 to 30 years, if it is approved.

As a Republican, Finchem said he was a voice in the wilderness asking the process to slow down.

“I’ll be the first one to disclose that I’m at odds with the Pinal County supervisors and some folks that are elected officials in the [City] of Maricopa,” Finchem said. “They see economic development for an expressway coming up. Well, maybe.”

County Supervisor Anthony Smith and Mayor Christian Price have expressed support for an I-11 route that would sweep close to south Maricopa as it travels from Mexico to Wickenburg. Its ultimate destination is Las Vegas, Nevada. Smith said at an Aug. 8 GOP gathering in Maricopa there may be a decision on the route details by spring.

Several residents of Hidden Valley are already opposed to the idea because of the choice of route that would cut through Hidden Valley, taking a handful of existing homes. They have been pushing for a route that would take Interstate 8 traffic to Gila Bend and then north to west Phoenix.

Finchem has not warmed to the idea of any route. He said the push for I-11 was a sign priorities are off.

“We have secondary roads, county roads, that are in such a state of disrepair that generally you have to drive about 15 mph below the speed limit just so you don’t rattle yourself to death,” he said. “We don’t have financial resources to pay for even more roadway that’s going to require maintenance.”

He said he preferred infrastructure projects that support areas where growth has already occurred. Primarily, he pushed for rail to accomplish what he said is the main purpose of I-11.

“The justification for I-11 has been freight. Not passenger-car traffic. It’s freight,” he said. “I’m missing something here. Let’s move the freight from Mexico to a switching yard and railyard on the west side of Phoenix, which, by the way, is more jobs, offload the trailers and tractors, pair them up, and they can go on to the piece of road that’s already there.”

Both Finchem and Varela said a “huge mistake” constituents make when providing public comment on projects like I-11 is “signing their name to somebody else’s letter.” While organized groups may find it convenient to copy a letter written by one of them and have everyone send it in individually with their own name attached, Finchem said it becomes obvious fairly quickly.

“All of those letters, in our minds, count as one,” he said.

Varela said personal letters about personal impact carry much more weight.

Blanca Varela (left) represents the office Congressman Tom O’Hallern at the meeting. Next to her is Maryeileen Flanagan, one of the organizers of an anti-I-11 campaign in Hidden Valley. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Bowlin Road runs through the Santa Cruz Wash at a sharp incline. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Bowlin Road is a piecemeal roadway through Maricopa, some pieces in high usage while other pieces are nearly ghosts.

This year, sections of it are targeted by City Hall for improvements in the name of safety. The focus is creating a crossing over the Santa Cruz Wash.

According to City documents, a raised crossing would “increase vehicular connectivity, improve response times of the fire department and provide relief to congestion on Honeycutt Road.”

The City intends to use $974,800 in Highway User Revenue Funds (HURF) for the project between White & Parker Road and Anthony Boulevard in Rancho Mirage Estates. That comprises $473,000 in fiscal year 2020 and $501,000 in FY2021.

Joshua Plumb, engineering and floodplain manager for the City, said a crossing would be high enough to combat seasonal flooding of the wash. “Enough to allow most of the flows we see through there to pass without overtopping,” he said. “It’s going to create that connection that right now is pretty much impassible.”

It’s not just about floodwater. As used to be the case on roads crossing the Santa Rosa Wash, the dirt portion of Bowlin is a bit of a rollercoaster across the Santa Cruz even in dry weather.

“The wash crossing itself is too steep to pass anyhow,” Plumb said. “In a four-wheel-drive jeep you might be able to pass, but in a standard sedan you could not. And, certainly, emergency vehicles aren’t making it through there.”

A sedan is not exactly comfortable on even the “flat” stretch of dirt road between City Hall and Rancho Mirage. The long-range Area Transportation Plan sees a four-lane arterial by 2030.

The timeline for paving the dirt portion of Bowlin from east of the White & Parker intersection to the wash will be driven by development. City Hall does not have a schedule for that improvement. Plumb said there will be a temporary surface treatment to get traffic from pavement to pavement in the interim.

The wash crossing is considered a first step and a necessity.

“Right now, we have east-west connectivity up at Honeycutt, and then you have to go all the way down to Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway, which is the next non-dirt road,” Plumb said. “And then Farrell is there for dirt passage when the weather’s good.”

Because of that situation, many commuters in Rancho Mirage, Sorrento and Tortosa subdivisions use Honeycutt Road, causing traffic backup at White & Parker. It becomes even more dangerous when fire trucks need to reach the site of an emergency and must drive miles around.

A four-lane, paved portion of Bowlin already runs from Hartman Road on the east end to Anthony Boulevard on the west, separating Rancho Mirage from Sorrento and passing Fire Station 572 and the Global Water well along the way.

The capital improvement plan anticipates an opportunity for grant funding for phases of Bowlin Road.


This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

Eastbound Bowlin Road from White and Parker Road turns from pavement to surface treatment to dirt.

Maryeileen Flanagan points out her home on the I-11 map. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A new interstate highway planned through Arizona will sweep through Hidden Valley, and residents are irate.

The Federal Highway Administration is seeking feedback on the proposed I-11 corridor. It has primarily been promoted as the first direct connection between Phoenix and Las Vegas, though it ultimately could link Mexico to Canada.

More than 130 people have joined the “Stop I-11 in Hidden Valley” Facebook group, and they have begun meeting to strategize opposition to what is being shopped as the preferred route. Thursday, a group of about 20 gathered in Linda Sullivan’s house, which is near of the freeway’s path.

The freeway corridor is 2,000 feet wide and would necessitate the demolition of occupied homes.

“Some people have built their dream homes out here,” Sullivan said.

“The big intention of this freeway is to connect Nogales all the way to Vegas,” said Maryeileen Flanagan, who has been watching the project for years. “There’s a huge amount of goods transported via truck. This really is about the trucking industry.”

Flanagan’s home is in the path of the “recommended” alternative, which follows sections of the “green” and “purple” routes. She built her own house 1996.

Nevada completed the first leg of its part of the interstate, from Boulder City to Lake Mead, last year. Such a highway has been discussed in one form another for 25 years but was not formally designated until 2015. Flanagan said some of the data and maps of Hidden Valley being used in the study are outdated, according to recent reports from the Arizona Department of Transportation.

As the planned freeway from Marana to Buckeye comes through the Maricopa area, it is divided into three alternatives. What is called the “orange” alternative follows Interstate 8 to Gila Bend and then cuts north to Buckeye and on to Wickenburg. That alternative, however, has mostly fallen out of discussion because of the distance.

Santina Johnson, who has ongoing battles with Pinal County, believes the “orange” is being ignored because Maricopa, Casa Grande and Pinal County are pushing it through Hidden Valley.

Hidden Valley residents gather in the Sullivan home to talk strategy.

The shorter alternatives, “green” and “purple” go through the populated areas of Hidden Valley, following a path along Barnes Road east to west, passing south of the Nissan proving grounds until it reaches Amarillo Valley Road, where it starts to run northwest and passes through the Palo Verde Regional Park. It would cross State Route 238 at Mobile and continue on to Buckeye.

Johnson said residents of the City of Maricopa “are being fed the B.S. that the I-11 will take traffic off the 347.”

Janet Hedgpeth said no one in the county government would care if residents of Hidden Valley dropped off the face of the earth. Johnson described the area as having high numbers of senior, low-income, disabled and Hispanic residents.

Several members of the group wanted to plan confrontations with Mayor Christian Price and other elected officials in Maricopa and Pinal County, even introducing a recall of County Supervisor Anthony Smith, but others said it was smartest to go straight to the federal level and cut off the funding.

“We also need to make sure those are people who have the potential to have some impact in our behalf,” Hedgpeth said.

Flanagan has reached out to U.S. Congressman Tom O’Halleran and U.S. senators Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally. Sinema’s office responded immediately and said the senator or one of her representatives would attend a future meeting in Hidden Valley.

“We need to focus on our baby steps to get to our goal,” Sullivan said.

The public comment period ends July 8. A decision on the final route is expected in early 2020.

Flanagan said it comes down to money, inferring Pinal County wants the highway only as a driver of economic development. The county, she said, is the second largest in the state but has the least amount of available land for development and to make revenue, “because we have so much reservation land, state land, federal land.”

“So, they are desperate to do something to generate revenue,” she said. “They have to do something, so they can stay relevant.”

“It’s a good thing that people get up in arms, but the politicians don’t really give a damn what we think,” said Joe Abodeely. “What you have to do is something that affects them. For instance: ‘You going to be running for office next time? I’m going to do everything I can to make sure you don’t get elected.’”

I11study.com/Arizona

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City of Maricopa Express Transit (COMET) has fixed and on-demand routes in Maricopa.

 

David Maestas, Maricopa’s transit planner, made a presentation about the City of Maricopa Express Transit (COMET) to city council Tuesday evening.

Maestas presented a series of numbers including COMET ridership and costs as part of a “mid-cycle budget adjustment” presentation. COMET has a two-year budget. Maestas said the changes to the COMET budget will come before the council in May for approval.

Maestas told the council COMET ridership has steadily grown from 2,695 in 2013, 2,714 in 2014, 3,142 in 2015, 4,814 in 2016, 6,739 in 2017 to 7,069 in 2018. He said in 2018 that 3,410 of the year’s 7,069 rides on the COMET system were in the demand response arena. He added 2,529 rides were considered as route deviation service, 759 were on the summer shuttle and 371 were for special events.

Maestas discussed the proposed budget numbers he expects for the coming 2019-20 fiscal year.

His total proposed budget for COMET is $506,750. Of that total budget, the federal share is $332,155 and the city’s share would be $174,595.

Maestas said the city’s costs will be $746 less than what was requested in the current year’s budget.

Assuming the number of riders will remain the same in the coming year, ridership on the COMET system will cost taxpayers more than $71.68 per ride. The city’s share of that cost computes to more than $24.69 per ride in the coming year.

There was a 4.9 percent increase in COMET ridership from 2017 to 2018, according to Maestas. He said over the past 30 days, COMET has averaged 17 passengers per day in their regular route service, according to his presentation to city council Tuesday. He said there were 26 passengers using the COMET service on Tuesday, the day of the city council meeting.

When discussing efficiency measurements, Maestas told the council a ridership of 2,529 has been achieved in a 30-hour period on the regular route and 3,410 riders in a 43-hour period on their demand response service but he did not state when these periods occurred.

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ADOT

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

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

Public Hearing Schedule:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public comments are due by May 31, 2019.

Photo by Jim Headley

 

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.”

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Photo by Michelle Chance

The City of Maricopa Express Transit (COMET) has announced the Route Deviation Service (circulating bus) will increase to a full daily schedule beginning Monday.

The new hours for the continuous service will be from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Since its inception in 2015, use of the COMET transit line has steadily increased and currently serves eleven high demand bus stops. Long range plans for the transit line will add feeder shuttles to connect all residential neighborhoods to bus stops on the core circular route in the city, making it possible for anyone to get from their neighborhood to a bus stop.

For any resident unable to get to a bus stop, the COMET Demand Response (Dial-A-Ride) remains available on a reservation basis. Long range plans for this service potentially includes connection to the Central Arizona Regional Transit (CART) system (currently operating between Florence and Casa Grande) and the Valley Metro system in Phoenix.

All other existing COMET services will remain the same. The cost to use the Route Deviation Service is $.50 per boarding (each time you get on the bus). The cost for using the Demand Response (Dial-A-Ride) is $1 one-way or $2 round trip.

All COMET services are open to the general public, and our vehicles are Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. COMET drivers are also trained in ADA procedures.

For more information about our public transportation system, please visit the City Of Maricopa website at www.maricopa-az.gov.

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 truck moves through a flooded area on SR 238. Photos by Jim Headley

While much of Arizona was hit by snow, more than an inch of rain fell overnight and into morning in Maricopa. Streets, parks and drainage areas were flooded. A section of Rancho El Dorado Parkway was closed, and water was over the road in three places along State Route 238.

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The transportation plan looks at current and proposed lighted intersections.

The final edition of the Maricopa Area Transportation Plan (ATP) debuted Tuesday night at a city council work session.

The report, compiled by Wilson and Company of Phoenix with a price tag of $75,000, examines the transportation needs of Maricopa, both now and into the future. Most of the burden of the study’s cost was paid for by Maricopa Associations of Governments (MAG) through the Arizona Department of Transportation and the additional $30,000 was credited as staff work by the city of Maricopa.

The study examined the transportation needs inside the city. The final report will be submitted to the city council for approval on Feb. 19.

Amy Moran, senior project manager for Wilson and Company, told the council members Tuesday the study’s purpose was to provide guidance for the connectivity of collector and local facilities to the arterial and parkway facilities identified in the ATP, develop Access Management Guidelines for use by city staff and initial efforts focus on incorporated area for proof of concept before expanding to entire planning area.

Amy Moran, senior project manager for Wilson and Company. Photo by Jim Headley

Moran said the anticipated needs of traffic signals in the city should remain at the half-mile and mile intervals that is currently being practiced. There are a few exceptions to those needs as traffic patterns dictate, she said.

Moran also presented the Transit Demand Study prepared by her company.

Moran told the council members Tuesday the study’s purpose was to identify potential transit service enhancements, to address existing and future needs of residents and visitors, to improve current services, to expand services within the city, address regional connectivity needs and anticipate influence of changing technologies.

During her presentation, Moran said current regional service needs, in order of importance, are to Chandler, then Tempe, Ahwatukee/South Phoenix and Casa Grande. She said projected needs in 2040 will remain the same but their order of importance should change to Chandler, Casa Grande, Tempe and Ahwatukee/South Phoenix.

She proposed a new route to someday take people to Tempe and Sky Harbor Airport.

Both the Transit Demand Study and the Area Transportation Plan will be presented to the city council for approval on Feb. 19.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo by Michelle Chance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo by Michelle Chance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Same is true with Phoenix and Valley Metro.”

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

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

Alan Marchione

By Alan Marchione

Dear Fellow Voters,

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smith said she supports both Propositions 416 and 417.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Document summarizes comments from summer 2016 outreach

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

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

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

1-11_scoping_map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Voters may be asked to consider ½-cent sales tax

Maricopa residents (from left) Julio Torres, Stuart Myers, Jessica Massa and Eric Cope commute daily to the East Valley on State Route 347 and have varying opinions on a possible ballot issue that could add lanes to the highway. Photo by William Lange

A half-cent sales tax could relieve some of the traffic pressure on State Route 347, if Pinal County voters go for it.

The Board of Supervisors had expected to to place a Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) proposal on the November ballot during its Wednesday meeting. However, according to County Manager Greg Stanley, push-back on the half-cent sales tax has the RTA calling a special meeting for Thursday at 11 a.m. They will consider revising the plan.

The tax would raise approximately $14.6 million annually over the next 20 years for 13 transportation improvement projects around the county.

High on the priority list is adding one lane each direction on the nine-mile stretch of SR 347 from the city of Maricopa to the Maricopa County line.

That is the fourth-most expensive project on the RTA list (see below) at an estimated $28.8 million.

The total estimated funds needed for all projects on the list (see map) and administration and other services is $640 million.

Louis Andersen, the Public Works director for Pinal County, said if voters approve the half-cent sales tax, the county would begin collecting the money on April 1. Some funds could become available at the end of June.

Should the RTA get an affirmative vote, more SR 347 lanes would not be a sure thing for the near future, though that project is included in Phase 1 of implementation.

An important aspect of the project is making sure it does not stop at the county line but continues to the Interstate 10 interchange. That involves coordination with the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG).

For some Maricopa residents, adding lanes is an obvious choice while others aren’t so sure:

Eric Cope has been commuting on SR 347 since 2006. He does not think more lanes will solve the problems and says a tax would be a waste of time. “The biggest issue is that anytime there is an accident, they shut down the whole road. If there are three lanes, they’ll shut down three lanes instead of two. What they need is to add a secondary route and pave a couple of the Indian roads – that would be ideal.”

Jessica Massa started commuting two years ago to Chandler, and was unprepared for the drive-time Maricopa traffic. “Some days, it’s not that bad, and sometimes it takes and hour to an hour and a half. If there’s an accident it’s more like two hours. I think adding the lanes will be a big help.”

Julio Torres has been commuting to the East Valley since 2008. “When you have a lot of folks who are in a rush and don’t allow enough time to get to work, it’s a challenge.” The proposed sales tax, he said, won’t be much help. “What would help is another route out of town, if we had our own version of the 101, the 202 or the 303 to downtown Phoenix.”

Stuart Myers has been commuting for eight years and said the traffic experience depends on the time of day. “If you’re drive between 5:45 and 6 in the morning, it takes half an hour to get to the airport. If you leave at 6:10, it takes 45 minutes to an hour. Drivers have no regard for anything; it’s just a race to a red light.” He said added lanes would not hurt, but other solutions are needed as well. “If Riggs Road was four lanes, I think that could help, too. And we need better outlets, as well. It’s never going to be one-and-done. We need long-term solutions.”


“There are hurdles to get over before it becomes a project,” said Eric Anderson, the transportation director for MAG.

What has stopped initiation of improvements to the roadway up to this point has been lack of a funding source. If that is secured through a citizens’ vote in Pinal County, the project could be added to MAG’s Regional Transportation Plan, Anderson said.

“Then we have to make sure it meets our air-quality standards,” he said. “There are steps to go through.”

That includes government studies.

“We have worked with MAG, had discussions with them, and they have tentatively agreed to conduct a study to determine what are the best options for achieving our goal to reduce the drive time from Maricopa to I-10,” Maricopa City Manager Gregory Rose said.

Rose said the city and MAG are looking for processes to assure any improvements in Pinal County extend to the I-10 interchange in Maricopa County.

“We’ve already started the process of engaging stakeholders along that corridor,” Rose said.

The idea of adding lanes to SR 347 also has to pass through Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), which is responsible for the roadway, and Gila River Indian Community, which owns the land.

“If Gila River says no, the discussion is over at that point,” Anderson said.

The ADOT process can be a major hurdle by itself, if state or federal funds are needed for the project.

“The Arizona Department of Transportation is supportive of any community or local agency that has identified additional transportation revenue to complete projects that are needed,” spokesman Dustin Krugel said. “In order for any project to move forward (that is funded partially or completely with state funds), it would need to be added to ADOT’s Five-Year Transportation Facilities Construction Program, which serves as a blueprint for future projects and designates how much local, state and federal funding is allocated for those projects.”

SR 347 is not on that five-year program. To become part of that plan, a project has to go through layers of review and (if federal funds are involved) the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, with public and stakeholder outreach. NEPA can take 2-3 years, Kruegel said.

If the SR 347 project is able to avoid using federal funds, at least one layer of review can be removed.

One of MAG’s goals is to have people working closer to where they live. That means boosting economic development and drawing employers to places like Maricopa. Anderson said that is the most efficient way of solving commuter traffic problems.

In current conditions, additional lanes seem the likely solution to traffic-flow problems. “It certainly needs it, given the amount of traffic,” Anderson said.

“I believe everyone is in agreement that it’s a reasonable goal to try to reduce the drive time,” Rose said.

Meanwhile, the RTA still needs to get on the ballot. “By statute, the board has to have that resolution to forward for the General Election by the 11th of July,” Stanley said.

traffic-jam-2
Pinal County RTA Projects Considered for Half-Cent Sales Tax
Project                                                                                                           Mileage             Cost
•    New North-South Corridor from Apache Junction to Coolidge                 36 miles           $345.6 million
•    New State Route 24 Parkway from Meridian Road to N-S Corridor            5 miles            $48 million
•    Casa Grande Connector additional lanes from Henness to N-S Corridor   14 miles           $44.8 million
•    State Route 347 additional lanes from Maricopa to county line                9 miles            $28.8 million
•    Selma Highway road construction from Casa Grande to Coolidge            16 miles           $25.6 million.
•    Montgomery Road additional lanes from I-8 to M-CG Highway                 8 miles            $25.6 million.
•    I-10 traffic interchange at Kleck and Korston roads                                  0.5 mile           $15 million.
•    Thornton Road additional lanes from SR 84 to I-8                                    3.5 miles          $11.2 million.
•    Burris Road additional lanes from SR 84 to Alamo Road                           1.5 miles          $4.8 million.
•    West Pinal Freeway Right of Way from I-8 to county line                        28 miles           $4.2 million.
•    Peters Road additional lanes from Burris to Thornton                               1 mile             $3.2 million.
•    Saddlebrook new road                                                                              1 mile              $2.5 million
•    N-S Corridor Right of Way from Korsten/Kleck to I-10                             15 miles           $2.2 million.
•    Public Transportation – Park & Ride lots, Dial-A-Ride                                                      $28.2 million
•    Municipal local projects                                                                                                    $24 million
•    Contingency                                                                                                                      $20.3 million
•    Administrative costs                                                                                                          $6 million


This is an updated version of a story that ran in the July issue of InMaricopa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Six public meetings are scheduled in the study area:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I-11-map