When statistics come out, experts are usually quick to explain what’s behind the numbers. But that wasn’t the case this week when a survey showed Valley drivers car pool a lot.
Previous studies have confirmed Valley drivers car pool at some of the highest rates in the nation. The numbers aren’t in dispute, but transportation officials can’t explain why the numbers are so high.
Eric Anderson, transportation director for the Maricopa Association of Governments, said the Valley doesn’t have an extensive public transportation system like other major metropolitan areas.
But Anderson said that alone wouldn’t translate to our high level of car pooling.
Places such as California have a more complete system of high-occupancy vehicle or car pool lanes. But here, only interstates 10 and 17 and U.S. 60 have nearly complete car pool lanes. Just a small percentage of Loop 202 has them, and Loop 101 has none. Part of state Route 51 has the lanes.
The latest study by Phoenix-based WestGroup Research found 43 percent of drivers are regular car poolers, users who car pool at least once a week during rush hours.
That translates to 15 percent to 18 percent of trips being made in a car pool. Anderson said past studies found 14 percent or 15 percent had been car pooling, some of the highest rates in the nation.
Car pool rates could grow along with the miles of HOV lanes. Those lanes are now under construction on some of Loop 101’s Pima Freeway. By 2009, Loop 101 will have car pool lanes from Route 51 in the north Valley to Loop 202’s Santan Freeway in Chandler.
Nearly all Valley freeways are set to get car pool lanes. The trickiest place to build them is on the southern stretch of I-17, where there’s no extra land to widen the freeway.
The State Transportation Board on Friday awarded two contracts to widen portions of I-10 and I-17.
A $67.8 million contract covers widening I-17 between Loop 101 and Jomax Road.
An $80.6 million contract will widen I-10 by two lanes from Loop 101 to Sarival Avenue in the West Valley.
HOLIDAY BREAK EASES ROAD WORK DELAYS
Getting around for your last-minute Christmas shopping shouldn’t be too bad as road crews are taking off for the holidays as well. But the recent wet weather has extended a few road projects in Gilbert, meaning detours and lane restrictions will be there when you head back to work.
For example, rain caused more problems with work on Warner Road, between Recker and Power roads. Drivers can expect that stretch to remain closed for another month or so. Crews are installing a sewer line in the area, limiting traffic to just local and emergency access until mid-January.
And if you’re trying to get to the Crossroad Towne Center at Gilbert and Germann roads, you should use Gilbert Road rather than trying to navigate the muddy and rocky Germann Road just east of the shopping center.
Many of the problems in that area also are rain related. But Gilbert officials say the wet weather only poses a short-term complication with ongoing construction projects.
Town spokesman Greg Svelund said longer-term restrictions can more easily absorb a one- or two-day delay than short-term closures. And in Gilbert, there are more long-term restrictions than short-term ones.
In Queen Creek, officials say there will be restrictions at Hawes and Ocotillo roads for another two weeks, and an off-duty police officer is expected to be there during peak travel times. Flaggers will be there controlling traffic heading into the intersection, and left turns from Hawes onto Ocotillo may be restricted at times.
Also, work continues along Queen Creek Road between Signal Butte and Meridian roads on a new sewer line, and Via De Jardin, west of Sossaman Road, will remain closed so that crews can complete work in the Sonoqui Wash.
Farther down the road, Pinal County drivers will see heavy delays along Ironwood Drive. Lanes in both directions will be detoured to the west from around Houston Avenue to U.S. 60 while crews build new northbound lanes.