Bumper-to-bumper traffic is never ideal – sitting in your car, inching along at what seems like a snail’s pace, desperately hoping that the congestion will clear up by the next exit – usually, to no avail.
But for I-17 commuters, soon this will no longer be a problem. Last month, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) announced that the state had won a $90 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (IFRA) grant to expand the I-17 freeway. The grant will contribute to an already planned I-17 infrastructure project estimated to cost $320 million.
The expansion project includes the addition of a third lane for 23 miles between Anthem Way and Sunset Point rest area. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao mentioned that the competition for the grant was steep, with over 200 applicants vying for the grant around the country.
“Our team stressed the importance of I-17 as a key commerce corridor in need of improvements for future increased traffic, to help reduce backups and promote safer conditions,” said ADOT spokesman Doug Nintzel. “This highway is so very important from a local, regional and national standpoint. We’re glad those evaluating our application agreed.”
In addition to the third lane for 23 miles on the I-17 North, the expansion project will include an additional flex lane along eight miles of the I-17 north of Black Canyon City. This will help smooth the flow of traffic at any given time, with movable gates at each end to control access. The flex lane will accommodate more northbound traffic on a typical Friday and heavier southbound traffic on most Sundays.
“We’ve been working toward new lanes along I-17 in this mountainous stretch for many years,” Nintzel explains. “We need capacity enhancements between Anthem Way and Sunset Point Rest Area in order to meet growing traffic needs and enhance safety by expanding beyond the current number of lanes. This project will be a giant step forward.”
The grant allows ADOT to pursue other infrastructure projects as well. ADOT can reallocate any remaining funds through the ADOT and State Transportation Board standard planning and programming process to pursue other high-priority projects in the state, Nintzel says.
“This is exciting news for Arizona and our growing economy,” Governor Ducey said. “Arizona’s fiscally conservative, balanced budget made significant investments in our state’s infrastructure. This additional funding will expand Interstate 17 in a critical commerce corridor, helping reduce congestion, improve traffic flow and increase public safety. My thanks to the Arizona Department of Transportation and all of our regional and federal partners for their hard work and advocacy on behalf of Arizona.”
Photo courtesy of the Arizona Department of Transportation