Portion of Pinal County road improvements nearing completion

Corrie Johnson, right, and Rebecca Kallhoff, center, ask about road improvements during a lunch and learn meeting presented March 17 by the San Tan Valley Chamber of Commerce. (Photo by Wendy Miller, Queen Creek Independent)

Corrie Johnson, right, and Rebecca Kallhoff, center, ask about road improvements during a lunch and learn meeting presented March 17 by the San Tan Valley Chamber of Commerce. (Photo by Wendy Miller, Queen Creek Independent)

 

Celeste Pemberton, the Pinal County project manager for roadwork taking place in San Tan Valley, has spoken to drivers who are concerned about traffic delays caused by the multi-phase project to widen Hunt Highway, add a pathway to Gantzel Road south of Poston Butte High School, reconstruct Bella Vista Road and widen Gantzel south of Bella Vista, she said during an interview.

“We ask for their patience, that they avoid distractions such as texting while driving and to allow extra time when they leave their home,” Ms. Pemberton said.

Work on Phase III of the Hunt Highway road-widening project and other nearby road improvements began in January. The $20 million project is funded by a bond approved in October 2014. A small portion of unspent money from a federally subsidized loan from the Greater Arizona Development Authority loan the county received for work on Ironwood Drive also was used to pay for the project, Ms. Pemberton said.

Representatives from area public utilities began a three-month project on relocations required for the upcoming Hunt Highway widening project between Stone Creek Drive and Bella Vista Road, Public Works Director Louis Andersen said in a press release issued in January.

Concerns
Realtor Rebecca Kallhoff has concerns about the traffic delays and accidents that could occur during road construction due to the immense amounts of traffic, Ms. Kallhoff said during a phone interview.

She said during rush hour, she has sat in traffic near Wal-mart, 1725 W. Hunt Highway, for up to six traffic lights trying to get through.

Ms. Kallhoff said she tries to avoid rush hour during the 10 or so times a week that her work in real estate takes her through the road construction zone.

Corrie Johnson has been keeping track of the roadwork as part of her job with Grand Canyon Title Agency.

“It’s important to let our clients know what is happening with our roads,” she said during a phone interview.

She said she lives in the construction zone, adding, “it’s heck getting to work.”

Motor officers from the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office work traffic enforcement in these areas as time allows between calls for service, PCSO spokesman Mark Clark said in an e-mailed response to questions. He said the force operates with  minimum staffing levels in San Tan Valley, as elsewhere in the county, because of budget cuts and despite the growing population in Pinal County.

“We encourage drivers to allow extra time when commuting along Hunt Highway during the construction work,” Mr. Clark said. “Hunt Highway is already one of the busiest roads in San Tan Valley and therefore has a proportionate amount of collisions. PCSO can remind drivers to slow down, but it is up to each individual motorist to drive safely and defensively, don’t tailgate and maintain safe speeds.”

Phase III roadwork
Work began Jan. 25 to add a pathway on the west side of Gantzel between Poston Butte High School, 32375 N. Gantzel Road, and Bella Vista Road, Ms. Pemberton said. There have been no full lane closures during construction, she added. At the same time, crews widened a quarter-mile stretch of Gantzel Road just south of Bella Vista Road and extended it another quarter-mile south to Omega Drive, Ms. Pemberton said.

This project will culminate with a new stoplight at the intersection of Hunt Highway and Bella Vista, Ms. Pemberton said. It will feature a dual lefthand turn signal to allow two lanes of eastbound traffic on Hunt Highway to travel north on Gantzel. Also, there will be two through lanes and a dedicated righthand turn lane for those southbound travelers on Gantzel, the project manager said.

Drivers should be alerted that in May the county may shut down the intersection for an entire weekend, when crews would work around the clock to reconfigure the intersection and finish the project quicker, Ms. Pemberton said. Otherwise the intersection would take two weeks to complete, she said.

Work, which is on track to be completed in May, continues on both segments 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday, Ms. Pemberton said.
The second stage of this year’s roadwork involves reconstruction on Bella Vista Road between Gantzel Road and Hunt Highway. It is expected to start in May.

Crews will take up all the asphalt on that section of Bella Vista and replace it with rubberized asphalt, Ms. Pemberton said. Work will begin on the two westbound lanes, with east-west traffic diverted to the two existing eastbound lanes. That work is expected to take about a month, at which time east-west traffic will be diverted to the two eastbound lanes while roadwork takes place on the two westbound lanes.

The cost to upgrade the road surface to rubberized asphalt for both Bella Vista Road and Hunt Highway from Bella Vista to Gary Road is about $300,000. Ms. Pemberton said.

“Residents in the area had been requesting a sound barrier, which logistically did not make sense in a residential area,” Ms. Pemberton said.

According to information from Pinal County Public Works, Hunt Highway between Queen Creek and Florence had an average daily trip count of 19,027 in 2013, up from 12,023 in 2007.

Homes in subdivisions such as Solera and Johnson Ranch along Bella Vista, Hunt Highway and in the nearby area were built when traffic was lighter and homes were allowed to be built with an 8-foot setback from the roadway, Ms. Pemberton said. Newer homes are required to have a deeper setback, she said.

The third and last stage will be the Phase III widening of Hunt Highway between Gary Road and Bella Vista Road (Golf Club Drive). Roadwork is scheduled to begin in May and be completed in January, Ms. Pemberton said.

Work includes widening the highway from two to five lanes, installing a 24- to 30-inch-wide reinforced concrete stormwater collection pipe, curbs and bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the roadway, Ms. Pemberton said.

During construction, traffic will be confined to two lanes. The speed limit will be posted 25 mph, she said, adding the county is considering doubling the fines for traffic violations through the construction area.

Ms. Johnson said she tries to focus on the future for the area and feels the improved roads will increase property values.

“It was the main conversation yesterday during a tour of San Tan Valley with real estate agents,” Ms. Johnson said April 7. “I said, ‘if you’re not getting the price you want now, hold off another six months and the better roads should help with their value.’”

For more information, call Ms. Pemberton at 520-866-6402, e-mail her at celeste.pemberton@pinalcountyaz.gov or visit the Pinal County Public Works website at http://pinalcountyaz.gov/publicworks or http://facebook.com/PinalCountyPW.

 

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