A 23-mile stretch of Interstate 10 between the Phoenix area and Casa Grande will be the focus of a new study designed to improve conditions for tens of thousands of motorists who travel the corridor each day.

The 18-month study is the culmination of an agreement between the Maricopa Association of Governments, the Gila River Indian Community and the Arizona Department of Transportation in an effort to meet future travel demands.

“We certainly know that there’s additional lane capacity that’s required given that the northern sections of I-10 are right around 100,000 vehicles a day now, which is pretty significant; it’s only a two-lane roadway for the most part,” said Eric Anderson, executive director of the association.

Anderson says the plans will provide measures for eliminating traffic problems.

“I think overall flow, just having more reliable travel times being here in Casa Grande, the I-10 in general has a lot of truck traffic, heavy trucks,” he said. “Accidents happen and you only have two lanes in one direction, it doesn’t take much to cause a closure, even if there’s no fatality.”

Additionally, structures like the Gila River bridge, which was built in the mid-1960s, need to be addressed. The Casa Blanca interchange at State Route 587, leading to the Gila River community, may need to be redesigned and will likely be part of future construction.

“The study needs to identify all those things that need to be done to improve traffic flow in that corridor, and then when you figure out what needs to be done, you have to cost it all out and figure out how to pay for it,” Anderson said.

Already, $65.5 million has been allocated to the stretch of I-10 passing through Maricopa County. The additional funding will be pulled from the voter-approved Proposition 400 that was passed in 2004.

Another piece of the puzzle is getting clearance from the National Environmental Policy Act to make sure the planned work doesn’t make significant impacts to the environment, Anderson said.

I-10 is an important thoroughfare for both passenger traffic and commerce.

“We commend our partners at the Maricopa Association of Governments and the Gila River Indian Community for their commitment to improving this essential corridor for personal and commercial travel,” said Arizona Department of Transportation Director John Halikowski.

“Creating a master plan for I-10 between the Phoenix area and Casa Grande will be a major step toward ADOT’s goal of providing three travel lanes in each direction from the Valley to Tucson.”

While it may be years before motorists see actual construction, throughout the process officials will seek public comment about the plan.

The study is part of ongoing efforts to improve I-10 by ADOT. Construction to widen other sections of the roadway has been underway since December 2017, with completion scheduled for summer 2019, giving Tucsonans a smoother trip up north.

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The $36.6 million project will provide three lanes in each direction to reduce traffic jams, so in the event of a crash there will be more lanes for travel without shutting down the interstate entirely.

State Route 86 widening project

Motorists traveling on State Route 86/Ajo Way should expect intermittent lane closures and delays between Kinney and Valencia roads starting Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Crews are completing the widening project of SR 86 west of Tucson, including sign and rumble strip installations.

Work is expected to take six weeks.

I-10 and SR 83 ramp configuration

Construction crews will be working on a new exit ramp at I-10 and State Route 83 near Vail beginning Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Motorists on eastbound I-10 will use a new ramp adjacent to the existing one. No significant delays are expected during the switch, but the exit ramp will close for one week in early December for work.

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or sdavis@tucson.com. On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1

Reporter

Shaq is a public safety reporter and the Road Runner columnist, keeping readers up to date on transportation news. In 2017, he started as an apprentice and later worked part-time until graduating from the UA and being offered a full-time position in 2018.