Motorists using I-17 in the Phoenix area can look forward to smoother sailing through the North Valley area once a series of projects to widen the highway are completed.
The $35.8 million contract on the first project in the series — construction of interchanges at Jomax Road and Dixileta Drive — was awarded to Pulice Construction Inc. of Phoenix. Work began June 1 with completion expected in 15 months.
“We’re overhauling the I-17 corridor in between the Route 101 freeway and the Carefree Highway in north Phoenix,” Doug Nintzel, a spokesman of the Arizona Department of Highways (ADOT), said. “This is a key stretch of I-17 because it’s in a rapidly developing area in what’s known as the North Valley. This particular project is the first in a series of projects that will change the look of I-17 and without a doubt increase the traffic capacity along the highway.”
Motorists face traffic snares on that section of the highway because of volume and the fact that the road narrows to two lanes north of Loop 101 to New River. In fact, that section of I-17 has fewer lanes than newer expressways in the area.
Pulice will build new bridges over I-17 connecting Jomax and Dixileta to the expressway. Crews will construct northbound and southbound entrance and exit ramps at Jomax Road. They will construct a northbound exit ramp and a southbound entrance ramp at Dixileta Road, 2 mi. (3.2 km) away.
The project also calls for connecting the I-17 frontage roads to the Dixileta Drive interchange creating a safer, more efficient one-way road from the existing two-way road.
The improvements to I-17 are part of a 20-year regional transportation plan, a $9 billion series of projects to be carried out in five-year phases initiated by the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG).
Voters approved funding for the project in November 2004 with funding becoming available in January 2006. “It’s been a long time in the making,” Nintzel said.
Major improvements include widening the interstate in that area from the current two lanes in each direction to four lanes in each direction with a carpool lane in each direction, he said. The upcoming projects will extend existing carpool lanes south of Loop 101 carpool lanes to the Carefree Highway (State Route 74), he said.
In addition to more lanes, the project also will create improved access along the freeway.
“The new interchanges at Jomax Road and Dixileta Drive represent new ways in and out of what will continue to be rapidly developing areas,” Nintzel added.
A growth spurt of additional businesses shopping facilities and “more and more homes” has spawned highway congestion, he said. With growth expected to continue in the future, ADOT is planning for the long term.
“We’re designing the projects with the year 2025 in mind rather than just thinking about a few years from now,” Nintzel said.
While the project will require closures for girder installation and bridge deck pours, ADOT will try to avoid completely closing the highway during construction.
“We’re committed to doing much of the work that requires closures at night time but there will be occasional weekend closures or restrictions to get the job done,” Nintzel said.
“We’re really going to try to minimize that as much as possible but you can’t build a bridge without having some restrictions,” he said.
ADOT will work with local communities to make sure commuters know about closures when they happen and are aware of alternate routes to avoid the area. That’s important because I-17 is the only major route to northern Arizona, Nintzel said.
During restrictions, motorists will be directed to use State Route 87, the Beeline Highway.
ADOT expects workers will remove 112,000 sq. yds. (94,000 sq m) of asphaltic concrete pavement and do 188,000 cu. yds. (143,700 cu m) of roadway excavation and 79,500 cu. yds. (57,000 cu m) of drainage excavation. The project will use 33,000 sq. yds. (27,500 sq m) of Portland cement concrete pavement and 45,000 tons (40,800 t) of asphaltic concrete. CEG