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ADOT Looking For Ways To Ease I-17 Traffic

Accidents and fires along Interstate 17 north of Phoenix have caused the roadway to shut down several times this summer, especially around the Black Canyon City area. That includes a nine-hour closure on Tuesday caused by a semi fire.

The problem with I-17 is not the number of cars that use it.

The issue is that when an accident happens north of the Valley, there’s often nowhere for that traffic to detour, said Eric Anderson, the transportation director with the Maricopa Association of Governments, or MAG. He said I-17 actually sees much less traffic that large highways in the Valley.

"We have a major section of I-10, for example, around the Broadway curve that handles 300,000 vehicles a day," Anderson said. "The section of I-17 we’re talking about handles maybe 20 or 30,000, so a tenth of it."

Anderson said the Arizona Department of Transpiration is looking at several options to help ease the traffic issues, including reversible lanes.

“Anybody who’s been stuck on I-17 for two, three, four, five hours certainly can see that something has to be done. But unfortunately there’s not a lot of money around in the amounts necessary to what’s needed,” he said. “So, we’ll continue to search for additional funding.”

Anderson said MAG has pledged $50 million toward improving I-17 and that ADOT is looking for federal money for future projects. He said construction could start by 2020.

Stina Sieg was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2013 to 2018.