Anyone who regularly commutes between Tucson and Phoenix has stories of close calls, near misses and idiotic drivers.
The dream for those driving this flat, relatively straight piece of Interstate 10 is for the day when there will be three lanes in both directions.
It should be pretty simple in theory. There are only a handful of bridges to widen, little in the way of physical barriers (no hills to carve into, for example) and no buildings needing relocation.
So why doesn’t the state get busy on paving the rest of Interstate 10?
The answer is funding, Dustin Krugel, a public information officer for the Arizona Department of Transportation, says.
In the last five years, he says, ADOT has invested nearly $170 million to widen I-10 from two lanes to three lanes in several locations between Tucson and Phoenix.
For those who are skeptical, those improvements include Val Vista Road to Earley Road, Interstate 8 to Arizona 87, Tangerine Road to Pinal Air Park Road, Picacho Peak Road to Pinal Air Park Road, and the town of Picacho to Picacho Peak Road.
The State Transportation Board had to wear the black hat recently when it had to reduce ADOT’s Five-Year Transportation Facilities Construction Program by $350 million, affecting ADOT’s ability to commit additional funds to the I-10 corridor.
The state agency had to cut costs because of lower than expected project revenues and declining federal revenue. This means three areas along Interstate 10 remain unfinished and essentially off ADOT’s official to-do list for the next five years.
There are only two sections of highway that are not a six-lane highway between Casa Grande and Tucson. They are Earley Road to the I-8 junction and the Arizona 87 junction to the town of Picacho.
The design work is nearly done for the SR 87 to Picacho segment, and the Earley Road to I-8 project is more than half-way designed; both lack funding for the actual work in ADOT’s five-year plan.
Those of us who have slammed our brakes approaching Phoenix should know that 20 miles of I-10 north of Casa Grande will be a lot harder to expand, Krugel says.
“ADOT is studying the widening of I-10 between the Loop 202 (Santan Freeway) to I-8 near Casa Grande. Extensive environmental and design studies will need to be completed prior to construction,” he said.
Under current funding levels, this means the dream of many commuters of three lanes in each direction to Phoenix might not come true until sometime around 2020.
And that is a best-case scenario.