State officials are reconsidering how and when to widen Loop 101 after realizing the project would disrupt major events such as Super Bowl XLII and also Scottsdale’s photo-enforcement program.
Initially, the Arizona Department of Transportation planned to completely close off north-bound Loop 101 between the 90th Street/Pima Road exit and the Pima/Princess roads exit beginning today through Monday as part of a larger plan to install high-occupancy vehicle lanes on the freeway’s interior edges.
Ultimately, the state plans to spend $47.5 million to add the lanes in both directions to a 15-mile stretch of Loop 101 between Princess Drive in Scottsdale and Loop 202 in Tempe.
But ADOT had to go back to the drawing board to determine exactly when and where to begin the project after realizing it would necessitate closing a portion of north-bound Loop 101 during events in January and February such as the Super Bowl in Glendale and the FBR Open golf tournament in Scottsdale, said Doug Nintzel, ADOT spokesman.
“Work up in that area will be held off until at least early next year,” he said of the project’s northern portion. “We could decide to start on the south end of the project. It’s not set in stone yet.”
In segments of the freeway that weren’t going to be completely closed to traffic, the work would have shifted the lanes to the outside by about 6 feet, interfering with photo-enforcement sensors embedded in the pavement, Nintzel said.
The delay will give the Arizona Department of Public Safety the opportunity to come up with some alternative to continue enforcement during construction, such as redeploying mobile photo-enforcement vans, he said.
“We won’t have to impact the current program that includes four of the six cameras located north of 90th Street,” he said.
A decision on how to proceed with the work is expected by the end of next week, Nintzel said. Officials still expect to begin construction sometime this month, he said. The entire project is expected to be done by early 2009.
“We’re still planning on a September start but we’re working on a final decision about the project’s phasing,” he said.
The closure would have sent drivers on a detour — mainly up 92nd and 94th streets to Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard — before allowing them back onto the freeway at the Pima/ Princess on-ramp.
Paul Porell, Scottsdale’s traffic engineering director, said the new lanes will benefit both local and regional traffic.
“It will help reduce congestion,” Porell said. “It’s a regionwide project. The motorists of Maricopa County are benefitting.”
Nintzel said the HOV lanes also will encourage drivers to ride together and use public transportation.
“They will provide an incentive for more drivers to car pool, and they will be utilized by express buses that will be able to carry passengers all the way from Chandler into the north Valley,” he said.