Say goodbye to risking an accident trying to get from I-10 northbound just past the U.S 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 a safer and more efficient commute for many Ahwatukee residents moved a bit 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 for a four-year, approximately $600-million overhaul of a portion of the I-10 that can largely be a daily headache for countless Ahwatukee and East Valley motorists.
The project is not a completely done deal.
ADOT technically could decide against doing anything, though that seems unlikely after years of study it devoted to one of its most vexsome freeway segments.
And the FHA, which would foot a big part of the bill, also could turn down ADOT down.
But at the hearing, ADOT appeared to be in full-speed-ahead mode as a few dozen people viewed maps, heard about the project and provided 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 likely 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.”
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 U.S. 60 ramp;
• Installing “dynamic message signs” throughout the 11-mile segment of I-10.
Although a pedestrian/bike lane will be added to the Guadalupe Road bridge that spans I-10, ADOT plans no alterations of the interstate’s intesections with Elliot, Warner or Ray roads or Chandler Boulevard, the agency’s representatives said.
A March 2018 report on the broader I-10/I-17 corridor study that encompasses the Broadway Curve project lists some improvements to the I-10/Warner Road and I-10/Baseline road interchanges as well as a barrier-separated lane between Baseline and Elliot roads to “remove lane changing (or “weaves”) away from the high-speed freeway traffic.”
ADOT is approaching the Broadway Curve 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.”
Traffic counts contained in the March 2018 I-10/I-17 corridor study showed a daily volume of 200,000 vehicles on the I-10 at Broadway Road and slightly less than that on I-10 at Elliot. That volume is expected to grow to more than 250,000 vehicles at Broadway and more than 200,000 at Elliot.
Herrmann said opening of the long-awaited South Mountain Freeway – scheduled for Dec. 20, according to multiple sources – will not ease the crunch along the 11-mile stretch of I-10 targeted for improvement.
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 – Herrmann 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 said.
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 end points of the 11-mile stretch because the toughest challenge will involve the segment between 40th and 48 streets – the actual Broadway Curve.
ADOT hopes to begin preliminary work for the project next year, though it has a tight timetable. It hopes to finalize the environmental impact studyby the end of this year, then get FHA approval by late winter or early spring.