PHOENIX - Independence from construction-related closures will help Arizona drivers celebrate Independence Day weekend this year.
For drivers planning to head to the high country or travel elsewhere in Arizona over the Independence Day weekend, the Arizona Department of Transportation will have no construction closures on state highways, including metro Phoenix freeways, over the extended holiday weekend from Friday through Monday (July 5).
Governor Jan Brewer is urging drivers to plan ahead and stay up to date on highway conditions, noting that several state highways have been closed or restricted in recent weeks due to wildfires.
"While I'm pleased we're able to avoid any scheduled highway closures, I'd like everyone to plan ahead, stay prepared and use caution during what has already been a busy fire season," said Governor Brewer. "I want our citizens to enjoy our beautiful state, especially over the holiday weekend, but all it takes is a tossed cigarette or a vehicle pulling onto a highway shoulder to ignite dry brush. We all have a responsibility to be careful and safe."
A number of drivers may experience for the first time the recent traffic improvements along Interstate 17 in the north Phoenix region. ADOT recently completed the widening of I-17 to four lanes in each direction between Loop 101 and Carefree Highway and added new third lanes between Carefree Highway and Anthem Way. Other projects are under way in the Tucson area, on SR 89A and on US 93 towards Nevada, in addition to dozens of smaller projects under construction that are funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Drivers also are asked to use caution in existing highway work zones. Major work zone locations for improvement projects include Interstate 10 west of Phoenix and near Picacho Peak between Phoenix and Tucson. Travelers can stay up to date on highway conditions before traveling by visiting the ADOT Travel Information site at www.az511.gov or by calling 5-1-1.
While no construction-related closures are scheduled, drivers are reminded to be prepared for highway delays caused by traffic crashes, weather or other factors.
During last year's holiday weekend, seven people lost their lives in seven separate fatal crashes along state highways and local roads. In 2008, 15 people were killed in July 4th weekend crashes. Drivers are asked to follow these safety tips before and during any road trips this summer:
- Be patient - don't tailgate and don't speed
- Buckle up - yourself and your passengers
- Be aware of existing work zones
- Get a good night's rest before traveling
- Be prepared - bring extra water, other supplies
- Check your vehicle - belts, fluids, tire pressure
- Expect changing weather conditions
- Never drink and drive - arrange a designated driver
- Check highway conditions at www.az511.gov
Because of this year's high fire danger, drivers should also be aware of how to play an important role in being fire safe. The Arizona State Forestry Division recommends that travelers call the fire restriction hotline at 1.877.864.6985 or visit www.publiclands.org/firenews/AZ.php when making camping or off-highway plans for day trips. Wildfire prevention tips for drivers:
- Never park your vehicle on dry grass, or drive through tall grass
- Never throw a lighted cigarette out the window of a vehicle
- Grease trailer wheels, check tires and ensure safety chains are not touching the ground
- Internal combustion engines on off-road vehicles require a spark arrester; check and clean the spark arrester
- Carry a shovel and fire extinguisher in your vehicle
- Look behind you before driving away to check for signs of a developing fire