Residents sound off on transportation needs near Hunt Highway and Power Road

Lynndsay O’Neill of the Maricopa County Department of Transportation, left, meets with Dave Perlman, center, Kimberly Whitmer and Mrs. Whitmer’s daughter, Kierra, at the MCDOT transportation open house. Mrs. Whitmer is concerned about the increasing traffic load carried on Hunt Highway near Higley Road. “Traveling east on Hunt from Higley around 5 p.m., traffic is backed up for a mile,” she told the Independent. (Independent Newsmedia/Wendy Miller)

 

Send traffic to Riggs Road. Keep Hunt Highway rural.

Those were two recommendations made by people attending a Feb. 7 Maricopa County Department of Transportation open house at Casteel High School, 24901 S. Power Road.

About 125 people attended the event, MCDOT Public Information Officer Ron Coleman estimated.

The county conducted the event as part of an information-gathering and -sharing process to help determine the future transportation needs of its residents in an area bounded by Higley Road, Hunt Highway, Chandler Heights Road and Ellsworth Road.

The area generally includes Queen Creek to the east, Gilbert on the west and county island to the south.

Move traffic to Riggs

From left, Rich and Ana Heckman, and Jeanne Bullard would like to see Hunt Highway remain two lanes between Higley and Ellsworth roads. They prefer traffic be diverted north to Riggs Road, which has been widened to four lanes in that general area. (Independent Newsmedia/Wendy Miller)

Jeanne Bullard has lived near Hunt Highway and Hawes Road for close to four years. She lives on a cul-de-sac, which means there is only one road where she can enter or exit her neighborhood.

Increasingly high volumes of traffic make it nearly impossible for Ms. Bullard to make a left-hand turn from her street onto Hunt during rush hours — around 6-8 a.m. and 4-7 p.m., she and neighbor Ana Heckman, who also attended the meeting — said during an interview.

“I feel trapped. I have to turn right and make a U-turn instead of turning left onto Hunt,” she said.

Mrs. Heckman’s husband, Rich, said drivers speeding on Hunt Highway cause safety hazards for students being picked up and dropped off by school buses.

He would prefer the county keep Hunt Highway a two-lane roadway, he said during an interview, and move more traffic north onto Riggs Road.

Riggs was recently widened from two to four lanes between Ellsworth and Hawes roads. The county is widening it to four lanes from Hawes to Power Road to increase capacity and safety, according to a map distributed at the meeting.

If improvements need to be made to Hunt Highway, Mr. Heckman recommends adding a center turn lane or dedicated right-hand turn lanes, he said.

Shery Babyak, pictured with Russell Stoneberger, has lived near Hunt Highway and Hawes Road in Queen Creek for close to 16 years. She would like to push traffic from Hunt Highway north to Riggs and utilize Hunt more for local travel and other slower modes of transportation. (Independent Newsmedia/Wendy Miller)

Shery Babyak bought her home on 2 acres near Hunt Highway and Hawes Road about 16 years ago to live the equestrian lifestyle.

She would like to push traffic from Hunt Highway north to Riggs and utilize Hunt more for local travel and other slower modes of transportation.

“The traffic (on Hunt Highway) is moving exceptionally too fast. I’m looking to maintain that out-of-city feel on the south end of town,” Ms. Babyak said during an interview.

She suggested adding paths along Hunt Highway for bikers, joggers and horses.

“Horse people need their paths, too,” Ms. Babyak said. “The horse community feels like we’ve been squashed due to all the development.”

Widen Hunt Highway

Kimberly Whitmer, who lives near Hunt Highway and Higley Road, would like to see Hunt Highway widened.

“Traveling east on Hunt from Higley around 5 p.m., traffic is backed up for a mile,” she said during an interview. “With all the houses being built and land being developed, it’s getting busier and busier. It needs to be expanded, for sure.”

Connector roads

Dave Perlman has lived in unincorporated Maricopa County for 10 years, near San Tan Boulevard and South Lime Drive. His transportation concerns involve roadways connecting to the traffic corridor designated for the open house, such as Ocotillo Road to the north.

He said Ocotillo Road west of Power Road needs to be widened to four lanes.

“At Power, Ocotillo chokes to two lanes and it’s near three schools. There are not enough lanes to accommodate the schools. Somebody’s gonna get hurt,” Mr. Perlman said.

He is pleased about the work the county and Town of Queen Creek have done to widen Riggs Road to Ellsworth Road, but said Riggs should be extended to Ironwood Road in San Tan Valley.

“At Ocotillo and Ironwood, that’s where the (Banner Ironwood Medical Center) is. It would be nice (for emergency vehicles) to have a straight shot from here to there,” Mr. Perlman said during an interview.

The Heckmans and Ms. Bullard said they were disappointed county representatives did not share details about the county’s future plans for the traffic corridor.

However, MCDOT’s goal in conducting the open house was to talk one-on-one with area residents and drivers to learn what was important to them in their local roadway network before developing a road-improvement plan, Mr. Coleman said.

For more information or to comment on the roadways, call MCDOT Senior Planner Angela Horn at 602-506-4176 or e-mail her at angelahorn@mail.maricopa.gov.

News Editor Wendy Miller can be contacted at 480-982-7799 and via e-mail at qcnews@newszap.com, or follow her on Twitter @WendyNewszap123.

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