Flex Lanes To Improve Travel On Interstate 17

The Arizona Department of Transportation is considering the use of flex lanes to improve the travel on Interstate 17 north of Phoenix.

ADOT is looking to add the flex lanes between Black Canyon City and Sunset Point. According to ADOT, history shows the worst backups crashes occur during the weekend, when drivers use the I-17 to travel to and from the high country. The idea is to increase capacity when traffic is heaviest in one direction, for example, northbound on Fridays and southbound on Sundays.

ADOT says the drivers will play an important part in the project’s success. 

“Flex lanes will operate as a separate two-lane system next to the existing I-17 southbound lanes between Black Canyon City and Sunset Point,” explains an ADOT news release. “Separated by [a] barrier wall, the flex lanes will carry vehicles in one direction depending on traffic needs.”

The flex lanes will help keep traffic moving if a crash or other incident has occurred on the steep, winding section of I-17 north of Black Canyon City.

ADOT says the drivers will play an important part in the project’s success. While an alternative route is often desperately needed during crashes, there is only so much that ADOT can offer. In large part, safety is still up to drivers. Many of the crashes, closures and backups along I-17 can be directly be linked to bad driver behavior. ADOT attributes speed in particular.

“New lanes will play a role in improved safety, but driver behavior remains the key,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “The reality is that a reduction in speeding, sudden lane changes and impaired driving would reduce crashes, closures and frustrating traffic backups along this corridor.”

ADOT conducted an analysis for a recent safety project and it showed that ‘speed too fast for conditions’ was cited by Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers in over 40 percent of the I-17 crashes in area.

ADOT plans to have the environmental and design concept study finished by summer 2019. Construction on an additional southbound lane between Black Canyon City and Anthem is set to begin in 2020. The flex lane construction is expected to take two years to complete and is slated to begin in 2021.


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