By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
It is billed by the Department of Transportation as a way to improve safety.
But the head of the Arizona Trucking Association says the move to restrict all trucks to the right lane of Interstate 10 between Casa Grande and Phoenix is nothing short of stupid. And Anthony Bradley scoffed at ADOT’s claim that it “coordinated” the plan with its organization.
According to ADOT spokesman Garin Groff, the idea stems from accidents along the 20-mile stretch, which has yet to be widened to three lanes in each direction.
More specifically, the agency says heavy vehicles were involved in about 20% of accidents in this corridor and 15% of rear-end and side wiper accidents. And in the event of an accident, the Autobahn can be closed to everyone.
“This is an attempt to reduce the number of heavy truck-related incidents in the region,” Groff said.
However, Bradley said this was a guess that the truckers were to blame. “We let them know that many of these accidents were probably the fault of the overspeeding cars driving recklessly through this corridor,” he said. “Putting all trucks in the right lane does not solve this problem.”
And there is a more practical concern.
This means that the slowest vehicle in the right lane sets the pace for everyone behind. So a truck following someone towing an RV at 45mph – with the speed limit set at 75 – has no choice but to follow the leader for the entire 20-mile route.
And the heavy truck traffic from everyone behind is slowed down to the same crawl.
This is not a short-term problem.
Signs are already being put up to inform truckers of the restrictions, which in turn will empower Department of Public Safety officials to fine misguided drivers under a section of the law that makes it illegal to disobey road signs.
According to ADOT, the signs will remain in place until additional lanes are added in each direction. And even if lawmakers approve a $400 million infusion this year to speed up the work, the goal for completion is sometime in 2026.
In a press release, ADOT said it was working to “coordinate” the plan with the Arizona Trucking Association. But Bradley said that was an exaggeration of the input his organization received in the decision.
“‘Coordinate’ is probably the wrong term,” he said.
“They informed us of their decision,” he said. “We honestly informed them of the stupidity of the decision.”
Bradley also said ADOT rejected ideas that would minimize the impact on truck traffic — and would look at the resulting backups.
“We had asked that if they did, they would make some space for us to overtake,” he said, taking short breaks on that 20-mile stretch where a truck could legally go around slow-moving vehicle . Bradley said his organization also suggested reducing the trucks’ distance to just under 20 miles in the right lane only.
“They have listened to us and are obviously doing what they think they need to do,” he said, chiding the agency for its decision.
“It’s a typical ‘20% influence and the other 80% can do whatever they want,'” Bradley said.
In addition, Bradley said he foresees other aggravating factors in the ADOT decision that he believes could make the traffic and safety situation even worse.
“You will have passenger vehicles in the left lane holding people up,” he said, while the trucks occupy the right lane.
“People are going to be frustrated,” Bradley continued. “They will have nowhere to go and continue to cause accidents.”
Groff said ADOT will “monitor the situation if there are any unintended consequences.”
“And we will make adjustments as needed,” he said.
Gov. Doug Ducey has signed legislation providing $400 million to open to three lanes an approximately 25-mile stretch of Interstate 10 between Queen Creek Road on the outskirts of Chandler and State Route 287 outside of Casa Grande expand in any direction. This corresponds to what is already present on both sides of the segment.
ADOT is now seeking a $300 million federal grant for the project.
ADOT spokesman Doug Nick said the $400 million would not complete the work. But he said the pledge will qualify Arizona to apply for a share of the $5 billion Infrastructure Investment and Employment Act earmarked for highway improvement projects, which would provide the $300 million.
Nick said the agency has already set aside $260 million to begin work, bringing the total project cost to about $1 billion.
That launch, which could begin as early as 2023, will be on the two-quarter-mile-long two-lane bridges over the Gila River. From there, construction is to start north and south in 2024 until the entire route has been expanded to three lanes.
Estimated completion is for 2026.