Route 347 Study Proposes Several Traffic, Safety Fixes

The long-term traffic issues on State Route 347, the main artery between the City of Maricopa and the Phoenix metro area, is the subject of a study supported by several levels of government seeking a long-term resolution.

A draft version of the final study was released in December by the Maricopa Association of Governments that proposes several scenarios for improving the capacity and safety of the four-lane highway between its northern end at Interstate 10 and Peters and Nall Road on the Ak-Chin Indian Community, just south of the city.

At least 14 studies already have been conducted on all or parts of this road segment and were used to identify the major needs and concepts for revamping 347 to accommodate the fast-growing population and businesses in and around the city. This information was then distilled into preferred alternatives for segments and intersections within the 20-mile study area.

For purposes of this study, the segment under study was divided into Segment 1 between I-10 to south of Riggs Road, Segment 2 from that point south to the city’s boundary, and Segment 3 from the northern city line to Peters and Nall Road.

The study’s recommendations for Segments 1 and 2 were to build a six-lane “Arizona Parkway,” in accordance with the wishes of stakeholders from the Gila River tribe, whose land these segments would be traversing.

This would be a divided highway in which drivers wanting to make a left turn onto 347 from an intersecting road would need to make “indirect left turns,” or U-turns across the median after they’ve passed 347, and then access it with a right turn. This is considered a safer design than a traditional intersection by reducing the number of potential crash scenarios.

For Segment 3 covering city and Ak-Chin tribal land, city officials and residents also preferred converting their portion into an Arizona Parkway design, according to the draft version. The report states that in the city’s more urban setting with additional intersections between the major ones, this would be more difficult but may be possible at a few intersections, including Lakeview/Cobblestone Farms Drive and Edison Road.

The draft includes funding estimates for most of the proposed improvements, which add up to $229.5 million spent over more than a decade. Not included is the cost of a rebuilt I-10 interchange and improvements at the Smith-Enke intersection, for which the city has already completed cost estimates.

The public comment period after the release of the draft report ended Jan. 7 — the input will be used in the design of the corridor improvements and complete planning and environmental documents that will conclude the report.

The partners in the study include MAG, the City of Maricopa, Pinal County, Gila River Indian Community, Ak-Chin Indian Community, Maricopa County Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.