At a press conference in Anthem on Sept. 26, the Arizona Department of Transportation and Gov. Doug Ducey announced plans to build additional travel lanes along a stretch of the Interstate 17 freeway between Anthem and Sunset Point.
“I-17 is an essential highway that connects not only people and communities, but also serves our state as a vital tourism and commerce corridor,” said John Halikowski, Director of the Arizona Department of Transportation. “We’re excited about the planned improvements and the impact that they’re gonna have for our travelers and citizens of Arizona.”
The plan calls for the expansion of I-17 from two to three lanes in both directions across the fifteen mile stretch between Anthem Way and Black Canyon City. The project will also result in eight miles of what ADOT calls flex lanes between Black Canyon City and Sunset Point.
The flex lanes will be a two-lane stretch of freeway separate from the main roadway, with gate-controlled access points that allow for traffic to flow in either direction depending on the time of day. For example, ADOT says the lane could be used to accommodate heavy Northbound traffic during the week, and later be used to accommodate busy southbound traffic on a Sunday.
“On a busy weekend, I-17 sees more than 50,000 vehicles per day,” said Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. “With this new expansion, I-17 will be less congested and safer than ever before.”
ADOT says the project will cost over $300 million to complete. About $130 million of that funding is coming from Arizona’s fiscal year 2020 budget signed earlier this year. The project is part of a statewide effort to improve Arizona’s infrastructure, Gov. Ducey said, which includes a $4.6 billion plan approved this year by the State Transportation Board that allocates funding for highways, bridges and airports over the next five years.
The I-17 improvements will also be funded by a $90 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant awarded to ADOT by the Federal Highway Administration, and a $50 million grant from the Maricopa Association of Governments.
“With this investment, Arizona’s building better roads for a better future, with more to come,” Gov. Ducey said. “I also think this is a real example of what we can do from a bipartisan perspective in Arizona — getting the work of the citizens of Arizona done even in this tough environment.”
Halikowski said ADOT has been studying the I-17 corridor “for a long time” and said he believes the plan “will keep the traffic moving, and most importantly will improve safety.”
“While the new lanes can’t prevent all the closures or delays from happening, increased traffic capacity will improve the movement of people and products along I-17,” he said.
Construction on the I-17 improvements is scheduled to begin in Spring 2021 and is planned to conclude in 2023.
“Once construction starts, we’ll need you to practice patience,” Halikowski said. “Pay attention to signage and please slowdown in the work zones.”
Debbie Johnson, Director of the Arizona Office of Tourism, said she believes the new freeway additions will have a long-term positive impact on Arizona’s economy.
“Not only do these improvements help increase capacity and enhance safety, they represent an investment in our state and its future,” she said.