40th Street and Cottonwood Lane Quik Trip

This photo of the intersection of 40th Street and Cottonwood Lane during morning rush hour Monday, Feb. 10, shows a vehicle coming out of Cottonwood and waiting to turn left, but is stuck beneath a signal because the white truck is at the end of vehicles at in the left-turn lane for traffic heading east on the freeway. 

QuikTrip has told Phoenix officials that the proposed gas station at the intersection of 40th Street and Cottonwood Lane in Ahwatukee would add nearly 3,700 vehicle trips a day to the area.

But the October 2019 report by CivTech, the engineering firm hired by QuikTrip to conduct the mandated traffic study, said only 886 of those trips would actually be “new” to the gas station.

The other 2,800 trips would comprise  “pass by” traffic, the firm said.

Those numbers apparently don’t add up for the Phoenix Street Transportation Dept., which told CivTech on Nov. 25 it needs to do a lot more work – especially since the gas station would be less than 350 feet away from the freeway and across 40th from a popular park-and-ride lot.

For now, QuikTrip can’t build its controversial gas station – which has most of the nearby 185-home Foothills Paseo II HOA up in arms.

“If QuikTrip intends to proceed toward approval, the firm would need to resubmit a plan that addresses the concerns cited in the Nov. 25 letter,” Street Transportation spokeswoman Angie Holdsworth told AFN. “To date, neither QuikTrip nor CivTech have responded.”

The traffic study and the city’s evaluation of it points to an issue that affects far more people than Paseo Foothills II residents, who also have raised concerns about other safety issues affecting their community.

The gas station would be located at the mouth of Cottonwood Lane – Foothills Paseo II’s only way in and out of their community.

“The proposed development is anticipated to generate 886 new weekday daily trips,” CivTech said, estimating 107 trips would be during the peak morning rush hour and another 89 in the peak evening rush hour.

It could have been worse, CivTech’s report said, since the original site plan called for 12 fuel pumps, a 1,700-square-foot carwash and a 20,000-square-foot store.

During city planners’ review, QuikTrip was forced to shrink its plans, which would have generated 1,548 vehicle trips a day to the site, according to the study.

Motorists have already been complaining on social media about the traffic nightmare in that area.

The city last year installed two traffic signals within roughly about 100 feet of each other along 40th Street.

One signal regulates traffic coming out of Cottonwood Lane onto 40th Street; the other regulates traffic out of a popular park-and-ride lot across from the QuikTrip site that mainly helps motorists turning left to head north on 40th. About another 150 feet or so south, there are two more signals regulating traffic for traffic leaving or heading to the freeway.

The Cottonwood signal frequently creates long backups for southbound 40th Street traffic. 

Motorists turning left onto Cottonwood have to wait for a chance to cross the busy two northbound lanes filled with exiting freeway vehicles. There is no left-turn signal.

The CivTech study suggests engineers were aware of that issue, suggesting the signals were not properly synchronized to ease traffic flow.

“The signalized intersection of 40th Street and Cottonwood Lane, without mitigation, is anticipated to experience delay on the eastbound and westbound approaches of the intersection, which can be mitigated with revised timing and phasing,” CivTech said.

It estimated better synchronization of the signals would reduce the delay for eastbound traffic on Cottonwood to and from 40th Street. 

 Motorists have been complaining on social media about the lack of signal synchronization, the absence of a left-turn signal for southbound 40th Street traffic heading onto Cottonwood Lane and even the glare of the lights at night. 

One motorist called the area “an accident waiting to happen,” expressing concern that the glare at night is so bright it’s difficult to determine which streets have a red or green light.

QuikTrip wants to build on one of several parcels on the east side of 40th Street that are located within 600 feet of the interchange.

Those parcels were zoned for general commercial use – including gas stations – more than two decades ago, before Foothills Paseo II was built.

QuikTrip would sit on a potential gold mine, owning the only gas station that close to the freeway along its entire Ahwatukee stretch.

There are three other parcels that have yet to be developed, raising the possibility that traffic could only worsen in the future.

The Arizona Department of Transportation two years ago foresaw the potential problems that any development on those parcels would create for exiting freeway traffic.

It bought the first 600 feet of frontage along 40th north of the freeway – then banned developers from adding any driveway to those parcels along it.

For QuikTrip, that ban means that all its customers will be getting to the site on two 30-foot driveway on Cottonwood within less than 300 feet of 40th.

ADOT already has directed that QuikTrip must build a right-turn lane on 40th to reduce the danger of rear-end collisions caused by vehicles exiting the freeway.

The city evaluation of the traffic study took note of future development as well.

“The developer may want to consider inclusion of a potential land use for the remainder of the site as part of this study,” the city said. 

“Any future development of the site will require a traffic impact study due to the special circumstances of the site.”

It’s unclear if the city will require QuikTrip to also build a right-turn lane on two-lane Cottonwood Lane, where Paseo Foothills residents make about 1,600 vehicle trips a day, according to an earlier city study.

The city listed numerous demands in its request for a revised QuikTrip traffic study that suggest officials were skeptical of its conclusions and methodology.

“Why is the report silent on the matter of access control and prohibition of a driveway to 40th Street?” the department asked.

Saying they concurred “that a significant portion of” traffic volume would involve trips that aren’t related to the gas station, evaluators said the factors used by the firm to make those projections “are inconsistent with the directional distribution of traffic.”

The city also noted that CivTech had assumed QuikTrip would have a driveway on Cottonwood within what appears to be about 50 feet of 40th Street. 

But planners nixed that, stating “as presented, the western driveway on the Cottonwood frontage will be prohibited.”

While QuikTrip deals with the Street Transportation Department’s concerns, Phoenix officials also are contending with Foothills Paseo II residents’ concerns about the potential for hazardous chemical spills on or near the gas station.

Of the 185 homes in the development, owners of 132 of them delivered a petition to Mayor Kate Gallego in December.

They demanded to know what the city’s plan for evacuating residents in the event of a hazmat spill.

Their letter to Gallego assailed “vague and contradicting information we have received thus far” to their concerns. 

“We are taxpayers and constituents of the City of Phoenix and we deserve answers to our questions about the safety and evacuation plan for our neighborhood if a gas spill occurs on or near Cottonwood Lane,” the residents wrote.

They noted that City Manager Ed Zeurcher wrote them on Oct. 1 and said, “If an emergency incident occurred that required the evacuation of the Foothills neighborhood, the Phoenix Fire Department is prepared to meet this need.”

But residents told Gallego that letter contradicts what they were told on Aug. 6 by Assistant Fire Chief Scott Walker, who said an evacuation would not be possible.

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