Transportation issues discussed at community association meeting
NORTH VALLEY – The New River/Desert Hills Community Association is helping residents “connect the dots” when it comes to traffic issues. Representatives from the Arizona Department of Transportation, the Maricopa County Department of Transportation, and the Phoenix Street Transportation Department presented information at the March 11 NR/DHCA ‘Connect the Dots’ meeting. Each official spoke about upcoming changes and growth and possible solutions to ongoing traffic problems.
ADOT Deputy Director for Transportation/State Engineer Dallas Hammit noted that, as a Prescott Valley resident, he drives the 1-17 corridor at least three times a week. He reported that targeted safety corridors have “made a big difference.” ADOT is planning additional interactive informational signs on I-17 north of New River, and this project is expected to be completed by next year. Repaving near Black Canyon City is on the agenda for later this summer. Hammit also said that in the next 5-10 years, a third lane on the I-17 will be built between Anthem and Black Canyon City; no firm date has yet been set.
MCDOT Director and County Engineer Jennifer Toth called MCDOT’s core purpose “providing connections that improve people’s lives” and added that as the Valley’s population changes, MCDOT is “changing at how we’re looking at the transportation system and trying to provide those connections.” She listed several new projects to be implemented, including a plan for an interactive map that details what agency is responsible for each road in the area, set to be available later this year or early next year.
Phoenix Street Transportation Director Ray Dovalina discussed the Phoenix Transportation 2050 plan, noting that it “lays the ground floor for the future of Phoenix transportation.” This city is anticipating continued population growth and is planning for the future by tripling light rail miles, increasing bus service, and linking bus routes with the ending of light rail, as well as working on pavement preservation and road infrastructure. An extension of SR51 to ease the traffic in the area is in the works, as well as additional expansions of Sonoran Desert Drive.
Among the traffic safety implementations discussed was a flexible speed limit on certain Valley roadways. ADOT Deputy Director Hammit explained that a flexible speed limit would help keep traffic moving more consistently; for instance, during rush hour on the I-17, a flexible speed limit of 45 mph instead of 65 mph could deter drivers from going from 65 to 0 when traffic thickens, thus lessening the likelihood of crashes by keeping the traffic flow more even. Hammit also noted that flexible speed limits could be used when weather conditions warrant the need for slower driving.
A meeting attendee asked the transportation representatives about the issue of burros getting onto roadways. After a burro-involved vehicle collision on the I-17 near New River last January, multiple signs were installed alongside the I-17 alerting drivers that burros may be in the area. Hammit noted that ADOT has been working with the Arizona Game and Fish Department and that the burro herds are growing in size; ADOT is taking steps to deal with the problem, starting with repairing fences to keep burros off roadways. Another option is a very low voltage electric mat near roadways, as has been used to deter bighorn sheep and elk from approaching roadways.
Another issue brought up was communication: reports about damaged roadways, graffiti, etc. can be difficult to make since residents may not know which agency to call. NR/DHCA president Alan Muller noted that it would be helpful if the three transportation departments had a central contact point so problems on local roadways can be reported.
“We need a number to call so it can be distributed from there,” Muller noted.
Toth said that a road information tool is in the works, as it was one of the first projects she tackled when she joined MCDOT.
“I initiated a whole project to update that right away and create this new tool so anybody within the agency could say, ‘This isn’t our roadway, but let me connect you to Phoenix, Mesa, etc. or wherever the connection is,’” Toth said. “Hopefully by the end of this year, that will be complete.”
Jenna Kohl, Anthem Community Council Community Executive Officer, offered the ACC’s help to transportation agencies to get the word out to residents regarding upcoming maintenance and other projects.
“We welcome that communication,” Kohl emphasized.
Dovalina noted that Phoenix Street Maintenance Dispatch can be reached at (602) 262-6441. While Phoenix’s maintenance department may not always be the one local residents need to reach, the dispatcher may be able to point callers in the right direction. Phoenix also has an app for reporting roadway issues: MyPhxAz.