Road Runner: State plans new I-10 storm monitors

2013-11-11T00:00:00Z 2013-11-20T14:42:05Z Road Runner: State plans new I-10 storm monitorsBy Joe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The lonely stretch of Interstate 10 near the New Mexico border has largely been forgotten in the wake of the deadly 19-vehicle pileup on Interstate 10 in the Picacho Peak area on Oct. 29.

Some may have forgotten that the Arizona Department of Transportation poured roughly $600,000 into a weather-warning system there in 2011 that is able to detect, among other things, dust storms near Bowie and San Simon.

The area in eastern Cochise County has long been prone to dust storms, with nearly three times the number of storms reported than in other parts of the state, according to ADOT records.

From a five-year period starting in 2002, 31 crashes were attributed to blowing sand, soil, dust or snow, ADOT records show. Severe crosswinds caused four crashes, and limited visibility was to blame in two of the crashes.

In 1995, a 24-car pileup due to adverse weather in the mountain pass resulted in 10 deaths.

The weather-monitoring system includes meters that can give state officials early warning during windy days, while cameras can relay

real-time information about dangerous dust storms.

ADOT officials also have the ability to push out weather-related warnings to overhead electronic signs as well as on an AM-radio channel.

For the moment, officials are reluctant to discuss whether the pilot project is working, saying they need to work the kinks out.

But they are preparing to install another system along Interstate 10 between Tucson and Phoenix.

The system is, by all accounts, one tool in the toolbox for the Arizona Department of Transportation as it tries to make the highly traveled I-10 safer.

The agency has rolled out the “Pull Aside, Stay Alive” strategy, urging drivers to avoid dust storms and to pull off the road and into the median if they get caught in such a storm.

ADOT has also, in rare cases, shut down I-10 during dust storms.

It is unclear whether such an early-warning system would have saved lives on Oct. 29 — records show a dust storm warning was issued by the National Weather Service only after the 19-vehicle pileup occurred.

Hopefully, once the technology is installed, it will help save lives as state officials continue to wrestle with finding a long-term solution to the dust storms along I-10.{h3}DOWN THE ROAD{/h3}The Arizona Department of Transportation will partially close portions on I-10 between Ina and Sunset roads beginning tonight as crews perform geotechnical work.

Similar closures are planned for Tuesday.

Crews with the Arizona Department of Transportation will continue work along Interstate 10 near the Marsh Station traffic interchange this week, leading to lane closures.

One lane in each direction will remain open to traffic through all restrictions, but brief delays are expected.

ADOT crews will begin this week removing vegetation to prepare the area for a new transmission line for Tucson Electric Power Co. between Grant Road and St. Mary’s Road.

Eastbound and westbound I-10 frontage roads will see intermittent closures as the vegetation is removed and TEP installs 13 poles within ADOT rights of way. Work is scheduled to be complete next spring.

The city of Tucson with close at least one lane along 29th Street between Craycroft Road to Wilmot Road as well as into the 29th Street-Wilmot Road intersection as crews lay down a thin layer of asphalt.

The work is associated with the voter-approved Proposition 409.

Send your Road Q questions by email to roadrunner@azstarnet.com or to 4850 S. Park Ave., Tucson, AZ 85714. Please include first and last names.

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Find up-to-date road conditions and projects with Arizona Daily Star's Road Runner blog by Star reporter Jamar Younger.

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