Anyone who has travelled I-17 north of Phoenix on a holiday weekend needs no reminder of its inadequacies and the headaches that result from heavy traffic and crashes. But drivers got several reminders this weekend. And noted below, any real improvements are almost surely three years down the road. This weekend’s major issues, in reverse order:
Upon returning the the Valley today (Monday), many drivers got caught in this: “Traffic is backed up on southbound Interstate 17 north of Black Canyon City for a crash at milepost 244,” ADOT announced around 11:20 a.m. By noon, the agency said the backup stretched some 19 miles. “Expect long delays on I-17 SB from Camp Verde to New River. Crash has cleared at MP 244 but traffic is backed up to Cordes Junction.”
— Arizona DOT (@ArizonaDOT) September 3, 2018
The backups weren’t confined to traditional departure and return days. For several hours Sunday evening into the late night, southbound traffic was “heavy” from from Sunset Point to New River, despite any lane-blocking crashes, ADOT said.
Earlier, around noon Sunday, a multi-vehicle crash just south of Rock Springs caused a 7-mile backup in the northbound lanes. Thirteen people were reportedly transported to hospitals.
All patients have been transported and our crews are returning to service. Please be patient as crews work to reopen the roadway. As always, please slowdown, wear your seatbelts, and never drive distracted. pic.twitter.com/OHQYecgdoa
— Daisy Mtn Fire & Medical (@DaisyMtnFire) September 2, 2018
And on Saturday, when many travelers were presumably aiming to avoid the Friday evening rush, the northbound getaway was miserable for several hours. Heavy traffic backed up from Sunset Point all the way down to the Carefree Highway. That stretch of the drive took an hour or more, ADOT reported (on a good day, it’s a 32-minute trip, according to Google Maps).
Delays continue on I-17 from roughly the Carefree Highway to Sunset Point. Google says the drive takes an hour, but a couple folks have responded it's taken an hour from Anthem to Black Canyon City. Also expect delays on SR 87 into Payson. No crashes on either route. #aztraffic pic.twitter.com/PQJkOPX4Py
— Arizona DOT (@ArizonaDOT) September 1, 2018
Get Used To It
When will things change? No significant improvements are planned for at least three years.
ADOT has funding for design and construction of a project that calls for one new lane in each direction between Anthem and Black Canyon City. That project is in the planning and design phase, with construction slated for the years 2021-22.
ADOT is also looking into the possibility of adding two “flex lanes,” also called “reversible lanes,” to the 8-mile grade from Black Canyon City to Sunset Point. The idea is to build two new lanes in the median, separated from current lanes by a barrier. Barriers at each end would allow only one direction of travel at a time—similar to how urban bridges give commuters extra lanes coming into a city during the morning rush, then devote the extra lanes to outbound traffic in the evening. The timetable for that potential project has not been set, but ADOT has talked about it as though it will happen (see details>>>).