State grants continue to make it easier for Southern Arizona law enforcement agencies to do a better job of targeting impaired drivers, speeders and other traffic scofflaws.
For several years, the money has flowed from the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, letting departments across the Tucson metro area use it to help stop dangerous drivers and to educate people to prevent them from making bad driving decisions .
The funds also allow agencies such as the Marana and Tucson police departments to be two of several agencies that make up the Southern Arizona DUI Task Force, which increases street patrols during holidays to catch impaired drivers.
“In Southern Arizona, Pima County (Sheriff’s Department) and TPD are incredible, so is Marana and Oro Valley and Sahuarita, they do an incredible job,” said Alberto Gutier, director of the safety office.
“It’s not only numbers like DUI arrests or speed enforcement, it’s the overall performance and the reliability that we have on Southern Arizona law enforcement to get the job done.”
Most recently, the task force was out during the Cinco de Mayo weekend. There were 415 DUI arrests statewide, about 90 more than last year.
But DUI-related arrests across the state have gone down overall, Gutier says.
He attributed the fewer yearly overall DUI arrests in Arizona to the different grants used by state authorities.
“Six years ago, Arizona law enforcement in general … had 32,000 DUIs. Last year, it went down to nearly 28,000 DUI arrests,” Gutier said. The overall arrests have not reached more than 30,000 since 2013.
When departments are working their day-to-day enforcement, grant money can be used to pay for overtime .
Marana recently received three grants totaling $80,000 from the safety office.
About $30,000 will be used for DUI enforcement within the town on “days that we know where there’s a high consumption of alcohol,” said Sgt. Jeff Pridgett, a department spokesman.
“As agencies get bigger, we obviously get more officers that come on to the department, more officers who are very proactive and want to do DUI investigations,” Pridgett said.
“So, that just gives us more funds to have more deployments, but also more officers being proactive in doing the enforcement.”
Marana traffic detectives have already determined the areas of need using crash data and from documenting various complaints from the public.
Officers will also lookout for speeders in areas that can get busy, like near Marana High School, Pridgett said.
“If we know that school is going to be let out for spring break, we’ll do deployments then, or the first week going back to school we’ll do deployments for speeding, being very proactive to make sure people aren’t speeding through a school zone.”
It’s also to enforce and educate the students, Pridgett added.
“You have the high schoolers, some of them are brand-new drivers, and there’s a long stretch of roadway; Twin Peaks is a road that has east- and westbound one lane, so we go out there to make sure we get the students to slow down to prevent any collisions and them possibly getting injured as a result.”
In the past several months, grant money has been used for issues related to public safety, like an education campaign by the Tucson Police Department that focused on pedestrian safety.
In April, TPD representatives were out near East Grant Road and North Alvernon Way handing out water and talking to pedestrians and cyclists about staying safe.
The $20,000 grant is also being used for overtime to catch people not using crosswalks, bicyclists riding the wrong direction and red-light runners.
More education efforts are needed, according to Officer Ray Smith, a Tucson Police Department spokesman.
“As far as the impact with the department, we have more of a presence out there, so that’s helping, but at the same time we’re still seeing the numbers,” Smith said Thursday, citing a recent collision involving a pedestrian.
The grant will fund 30 deployments of TPD officers through September.
Gutier says the grant money will continue to be used to address various problems that communities across the state see daily.
“It makes us all feel good because we get a 100% backing from Gov. Ducey and the rest of the staff. And like everything else, when we’re allowed to do certain things and be able to enforce the law. … You can’t beat that,” Gutier said.
Down the Road
• Light upgrades to cause delays: Construction crews will install upgraded signals with flashing yellow left-turn arrows at several Tucson intersections.
On Tuesday, May 14, crews will upgrade the lights at East 22nd Street and South Kolb Road. On Wednesday, work will be done at East Broadway and Kolb. On Thursday, the North Kolb and Tanque Verde roads intersection will be completed.
The installations will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.
Motorists should expect delays; police will direct travel until the work is complete.
• Nighttime lane, ramp closures on I-10: Construction crews will close lanes in both directions of Interstate 10 at Pinal Air Park Road starting Wednesday night to install signs at the interchange.
From 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., westbound travel will be reduced to one lane and eastbound will be reduced to two lanes. The work will continue Thursday night into Friday morning.
Motorists should use caution and watch for personnel in the area.
• Lane closures on I-10 at Ina Road: Motorists near the Ina Road interchange will see overnight lane closures continue through Wednesday morning.
Crews began at 8 p.m. Sunday removing barriers in the area, which has restricted westbound travel to a single lane between Orange Grove and Cortaro roads.
On Monday and Tuesday nights, there will be intermittent lane closures and shifts on Ina Road between Silverbell and Camino de Oeste.
• Houghton Road Corridor Project open house: The Tucson Department of Transportation is inviting the community to an open house to learn about the progress of the Houghton Road Corridor improvement project on May 16, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Secrist Middle School, 3400 S. Houghton Road. Information will be available about the projects along the 13-mile corridor from 22nd Street to Interstate 10.
• Road striping for two projects: Construction crews will begin striping work from Highway Drive to Curtis Road as part of the Camino De La Tierra project. The work will be on Monday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will continue s Tuesday.
Striping will be completed at Mona Lisa and Ina roads Monday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Minor delays may occur during both projects.