ADOT: I-17 expansion will improve safety, but driver behavior remains key

Oct 26, 2018, 4:17 AM | Updated: 5:06 am
(ADOT Photo)...
(ADOT Photo)
(ADOT Photo)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Transportation said that improvements to Interstate 17, including new lanes, will help make the road safer.

But, the department cautioned, driver behaviors like avoiding speeding and distracted driving will remain important in avoiding crashes.

“New lanes will play a role in improved safety, but driver behavior remains the key,” ADOT director John Halikowski said in a news release this week.

“The reality is that a reduction in speeding, sudden lane changes and impaired driving would reduce crashes, closures and frustrating traffic backups along this corridor,” he said.

A recent safety project showed that Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers cited “speed too fast for conditions” as a factor in 40 percent of crashes in the I-17 Black Canyon region.

The department said the longest backups on the interstate occur after crashes on weekends as drivers travel to and from Arizona’s high country.

In an effort to avoid these backups, construction on a third southbound lane between Black Canyon City and Anthem will begin in 2020.

The department is conducting an environmental and design concept study for new lanes, expected to be completed by summer 2019.

The Maricopa Association of Governments committed $50 million of its transportation plan toward design work and the added lane.

ADOT’s construction program put more than $100 million toward  “flex lanes” that will be built between Black Canyon City and Sunset Point.

The two-lane system will be separated from existing southbound lanes by a barrier wall, carrying vehicles in one direction depending on traffic flow.

The flex lanes, expected to be finished in 2023, will add extra capacity when traffic is heaviest — mainly northbound on Fridays and southbound on Sundays.

They will also be able to keep traffic moving when crashes occur.

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ADOT: I-17 expansion will improve safety, but driver behavior remains key