Tired of being stuck for hours – or even just delayed – by heavy traffic or accidents on Interstate 17 between Cordes Junction and Phoenix? Or weary of having a shipment not happen on time because a delivery truck was hung up on the freeway?
That may change – if increased pressure from a variety of local, regional and state organizations and agencies has any impact on regional and Federal officials and their budgets.
That is what Chris Bridges, executive director of the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization (CYMPO) hopes will result from various meetings conducted and applications that have been filed recently.
In fact, Bridges is the featured speaker at the Northern Economic Regional Development Symposium titled “Driving Our Future: Developing an Economic Road Map.” The meeting, organized by the Arizona Association for Economic Development, is scheduled for Feb. 28, at Wickenburg’s Community Center.
It also features state engineer Dallas Hammit of the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT); and Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, speaking. Hammit is expected to explain how technology would impact roadways and the vehicles traveling on them. Camacho is expected to discuss advances in analytics and highway infrastructure and their impact upon statewide economic development.
Also on the agenda, the projected impact of I-11, a new interstate tentatively planned from Nogales to Reno, Nev.
Bridges, whose topic is “Interstate 1-17 Expansion and Beyond,” told the Quad Cities Business News that his major emphasis is explaining the proposed expansion of I-17 between Anthem, a community about 25 miles north of Phoenix, to Cordes Junction, another 40 miles north. At that junction, State Route 69 begins and goes northwest to Prescott.
He also said, though several million dollars had already been allocated to begin the effort, many more million would be needed.
At this time, ADOT has set aside $120 million for the Black Canyon City to Cordes Junction expansion. Another $70 million has been designated to expand the Anthem to Black Canyon City corridor.
However, Bridges said in reality, the true construction cost would be more like $500 million. He said applications were being submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation for another $380 million.
When roadway expansion begins, it will involve adding lanes both ways, along with some crossover passages. The design concept also involves some lanes designated for trucks only. Some lanes may be designated as “reversible” to be operative during holidays, heavy traffic periods or for incident management.
The expansion is expected to take three to five years for complex roadway design details, drainage issues, environmental impact requirements and acquiring necessary state and federal permits.
Above all, safety considerations will be given first priority, he said.
Bridges explained that three major factors impact traffic on I-17 going south from Northern or Central Arizona or north from Phoenix: too many vehicles; too many incidents such as accidents and breakdowns – and occasionally fires or other disasters; and, long delays that affect commercial delivery of products.
Bridges cited a CYMPO Board resolution approved and adopted several months ago. The key point in the resolution, “CYMPO formally declares support of the Arizona Department of Transportation to immediately pursue a public-private partnership for the purpose of delivering identified construction improvements to the I-17 corridor from Black Canyon City to SR 69, and to continue pursuing public-private funding opportunities to deliver improvements for the entire 1-17 corridor.”
Bridges said other communities, including Flagstaff, and several organizations, including the Northern Arizona Council of Governments, have formally endorsed the resolution. “All these communities along the Interstate are seriously impacted by the horrendous bottlenecks created because of I-17 limitations,” he said.
He pointed out the hope is that what in the past have been four to five hour or more delays will be reduced to approximately 90 minutes.
“What some people don’t realize is that the long delays are more than just an inconvenience for travelers. They are outrageously expensive for commercial vehicles,” Bridges said, noting that perishable goods can spoil during delays.
Bridges, who graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor of Science degree in urban planning, has been the executive director of CYMPO since 2010. The organization Bridges supervises is the result of a partnership among Chino Valley, Prescott, Prescott Valley, Dewey-Humboldt, Yavapai County and ADOT. FBN
By Ray Newton, FBN
For more information, visit CYMPO.ORG.
Chris Bridges is executive director of Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is responsible for planning and implementing transportation modes for the more than 400,000 square miles within the CYMPO boundary.
Photo by Ray Newton