ADOT inches closer to mega overhauling of I-10 here - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

ADOT inches closer to mega overhauling of I-10 here

October 31st, 2019 development
ADOT inches closer to mega overhauling of I-10 here

Executive Editor

No more taking your life into your hands trying to get from the US 60 onto the I-10 northbound.

Say goodbye to risking an accident trying to get from I-10 northbound just past the 60 to SR 143 and the airport.

And if you’re heading north on the I-10 from the Santan Loop 202 Freeway or anywhere from south of Baseline Road, imagine not waiting endlessly for traffic to inch along.

The prospect of all that coming true moved one step closer to reality last week as the Arizona Department of Transportation held a public hearing on its plans to widen and improve a stretch of the I-10 from the Santan Freeway to the I-17 split.

The hearing was part of the requirements ADOT needs to meet before it completes a final environmental impact study this year and submit its plan to the Federal Highway Administration before it can begin a four-year, approximately $600-million overhaul of portion of the I-10 that causes no end of headaches for thousands of East Valley commuters every day.

The project is not a completely done deal.

ADOT technically could decide against doing anything, though that seems unlikely after years of studying one of its most vex-some freeway segments.

And the FHA, which would foot a big part of the bill, also could turn down ADOT down.

But at last week’s hearing, ADOT appeared to be in full-speed-ahead mode as a few dozen people turned out to view maps, hear about the project and provide their observations on it.

Of course, there’s some bad news for motorists who look forward to a bigger, better and safer Broadway Curve.

Once the project kicks into high gear – most like in early 2021 – motorists can expect no end of torment as ramps are closed, lanes are blocked and annoying detours are the order of the day.

Indeed ADOT spokesman Tom Herrmann said that once the project has a green light, motorists should “think about what’s your alternative, what’s your plan B and your plan C.”

“The goal is to minimize the impact of traffic as it goes through and minimize the impact of our work,” he said. “Because there will be obviously a fair number of closures along I-10 while we’re doing that work. That’s a necessary part of what we do to build a freeway.”

In a nutshell, the project will produce six lanes in each direction between the Santan Freeway and Baseline Road and eight lanes in each direction between Baseline and the I-17 split.

Within that broad outline, however, there are other long-sought improvements as well as the introduction of a new concept in the Arizona freeway system called collector-distributor lanes.

Popular in California, those lanes resemble the frontage roads motorists are accustomed to seeing but with one big difference.

Running parallel to I-10 those collector-distributor lanes won’t intersect at grade with perpendicular streets and instead have exit and entrance ramps. The goal is to ease motorists onto the main lanes of I-10 without slowing down the traffic already on them.

The other elements of the massive project include:

Widening the existing Salt River Bridge to accommodate seven general-purpose and two HOV lanes between 24th and 32nd streets;

Flaring the west end of the bridge to accommodate proposed future reconstruction of the I-10/I-17 system interchange;

Reconstructing the SR 143, Broadway Road, and 48th Street interchanges and connect them to new collector-distributor roads;

Constructing a direct HOV connection between SR 143 and I-10 to and from the east;

Modifying the 40th Street transitional lane by eliminating the westbound off-ramp and the existing eastbound loop on-ramp, and relocating the 40th Street eastbound off-ramp;

Widening the westbound I-10 to eastbound US 60 ramp;

Creating a collector-distributor entrance ramp for westbound US 60 traffic heading to northbound I-10 that would resemble the existing ramp from US 60 to southbound I-10.

Installing “dynamic message signs” throughout the 11-mile segment of I-10.

ADOT is approaching the project with considerable urgency.

Noting an estimated 300,000 vehicles use that segment every day, it says:

“Without major improvements, the I-10 in the study area would suffer degraded traffic conditions, travel delays, and challenging mobility for moving goods, services and people.”

“The existing traffic congestion continues to increase from the extensive growth the Valley has been experiencing. Recognized as a potential transportation problem in the early 2000s, the already challenged movement of goods, services, and people would experience major delays in the foreseeable future,” it adds, stressing that continued growth in the Valley “would continue to outpace the facility’s capacity to handle the demand.”

Herrmann said the opening of the long-awaited South Mountain Freeway – scheduled for Dec. 20, according to multiple sources – will not ease the crunch along that 11-mile stretch of I-10.

Although 120,000 to 140,000 vehicles are expected daily on the South Mountain Freeway – which last week was officially named by a state board after the late Congressman Ed Pastor – Hermann said the highway  wasn’t built to relieve downtown.”

“It’s not built for that purpose. It’s part of the big picture of the Valley freeway system,” he added.

Consequently, the area targeted for the big project will be subjected to increasingly longer rush hours and delays as total daily traffic approaches 340,000 vehicles by 2025.

The preliminary environmental study indicates no significant roadblocks to the project, although ADOT is still continuing its evaluation.

The plan also indicates it will not be necessary to spend millions on land acquisition as ADOT did for the South Mountain Freeway.

Currently, three contractors are vying for the job and must submit plans that will be judged partly for their “technological innovation” as well as the timing of the work, one ADOT source said.

  Part of those plans will involve whether to start the project at several points, possibly the two endpoints of the 11-mile stretch because the toughest challenge will involve the segment between 40th and 48 streets – the actual Broadway Curve.