Three new specialty plates available at ServiceArizona.com

PHOENIX – The sound of freedom over the West Valley, classic cars and the wonders of science and technology are celebrated in the newest batch of Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division specialty license plates.

Plates commemorating Luke Air Force Base, the Arizona Science Center and the Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction are now available at ServiceArizona.com.

Specialty plates typically cost $25 annually. Of that, $17 is committed to the organization being supported. In the most recent fiscal year, sales of the plates generated nearly $10 million for charitable causes statewide.
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Safest decision when snow is forecast? Put off driving

PHOENIX – Because of the rapidly changing nature of winter storms, the Interstate 40 grade west of Williams got so much snow in brief period overnight Tuesday that the freeway temporarily closed.

This illustrates one of the central messages of the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Know Snow campaign: If you can put off driving when snow is expected to be falling, do so. The amount of snowfall can exceed initial forecasts and be especially heavy in areas that make driving an even greater challenge in winter weather, as is the case with Ash Fork Hill on I-40 between State Route 89 and Williams.

In addition to the obvious safety risks, slide-offs and crashes on highways slick with snow and ice can tax first responders, exacerbate traffic backups and make it more difficult and time-consuming for ADOT snowplow drivers to clear roadways. For the snow that began Tuesday night, slide-offs and crashes also occurred on Interstate 17, which remained open but slowed to a crawl in areas.

When driving on a slick roadway, the keys to safety include slowing down, leaving plenty of room between your vehicle and the one ahead, and avoiding sudden braking that can result in a skid.

Those looking to head north this weekend to play in snow should park in designated areas and keep in mind that highway shoulders for emergencies only. Parking on a highway shoulder can endanger you, your passengers and other drivers. In addition, first responders may need to use the shoulder.

ADOT has installed 24 signs at higher elevations of US 180 northwest of Flagstaff to remind drivers that shoulders are for emergencies.

Those traveling to popular snow-play areas should leave prepared to spend significant time in winter weather, as traffic at day’s end is often heavy on highways including US 180 toward Flagstaff. Locations of designated snow-play areas around Flagstaff are available at flagstaffarizona.org (click the Winter Recreation link) or by calling 1-844-256-SNOW.

ADOT’s winter-driving tips available at azdot.gov/KnowSnow include dressing for frigid temperatures, having a fully charged cellphone, keeping your tank at least three-quarters full and packing an emergency kit that includes blankets, extra clothes, snacks and water, sand or cat litter for traction, and a small shovel.

Real-time highway conditions are available on ADOT’s Arizona Traveler Information site at az511.gov, by calling 511 and through ADOT’s Twitter feed, @ArizonaDOT. When a freeway closure or other major traffic event occurs, our free app available at ADOTAlerts.com will send critical information directly to app users in affected areas – where possible, in advance of alternate routes.

Better than ever: MVD door-to-door time at historic best 30 minute goal surpassed two months in a row

PHOENIX – The amount of time it takes for customers to do business at Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division offices continues to go down and has reached historic levels of improvement.

MVD has established a goal of getting customers in and out of offices in an average of 30 minutes or less; and for the months of November and December that goal was easily surpassed.

For both months, door-to-door customer time averaged slightly over 22 minutes in urban offices and approximately 18 minutes in rural locations. In the same period just one year ago, average times were just over 30 minutes in both rural and urban regions. Two years ago, that number was 52 minutes.

“This is a testament to the hard work and commitment of all MVD employees,” said MVD Director Eric Jorgensen. “As part of Gov. Doug Ducey’s Arizona Management System, MVD empowers employees to find ways to do things to better serve our customers. That means more efficient service methods in offices, opening urban locations earlier and offering more options to do business online. Every day we’re exploring new ways to get better, and exciting new innovations are on the way to fulfill the MVD vision to get Arizona out of line and safely on the road.”

A total of just over 207,000 customers were served at physical locations in November with a slightly lower number in December, not counting those who took advantage of MVD office kiosks.

Share your thoughts on ADOT’s State Aviation System Plan update

PHOENIX – Members of the public are welcome to provide input on an update to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s State Aviation System Plan.

The update, which evaluates the current and future performance of Arizona’s 67 publicly owned, public-use airports, will help guide ADOT’s long-term planning so the state’s aviation system can safely meet the evolving needs of residents, visitors and businesses.

State aviation system plans are typically updated every seven to 10 years. Arizona’s was last updated in 2008.

Three public meetings are scheduled this month in Mesa, Tucson and Flagstaff. Each meeting will be an open house with a formal presentation at 2 p.m. The same information will be shared at each:

Mesa
1 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, January 23
Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, 5835 S. Sossaman Road |Airport Administration Building, Airport Board Room

Tucson
1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, January 24
Tucson International Airport, 7250 S. Tucson Blvd. | Airport Terminal Board Room, Second Floor

Flagstaff
1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Thursday, January 25
Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NACET), 2201 N. Gemini Road | Accelerator, Alternate EOC Building, Room 100

Additional information is available at azdot.gov/SASPUpdate, which lists contacts for those unable to attend the meetings but wishing to comment by email or phone.

Agreement gives ADOT environmental review authority for certain projects

PHOENIX – When the Arizona Department of Transportation installs a digital message board, rehabilitates a bridge, renovates a rest area or takes on similar work that makes up nearly all of its projects requiring compliance with federal environmental regulations, the speed of completion can depend in part on coordination with and review by multiple federal agencies.

Recognizing that states can comply with federal environmental requirements on their own while streamlining processes, a new agreement assigns ADOT environmental review authority and responsibility for many projects found to not have significant environmental impacts. A Memorandum of Understanding signed Wednesday by ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration applies to projects commonly referred to as Categorical Exclusions.

“Governor Ducey has challenged state agencies to eliminate red tape and work at the speed of business, and this agreement allows ADOT to accomplish both,” said Dallas Hammit, ADOT state engineer and deputy director for transportation. “We can manage projects more efficiently while continuing to meet strict environmental requirements.”

Congress recognized the benefits of such agreements with legislation creating a program known as CE Assignment to expedite environmental review. This allows a state to assume decision-making and legal responsibility for meeting requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other federal environmental laws otherwise administered by the Federal Highway Administration for projects qualifying as Categorical Exclusions. Alaska, California, Florida, Nebraska, Ohio, Texas and Utah have taken or are pursuing similar action.

To qualify as Categorical Exclusions projects must not significantly affect air, noise or water quality, natural, cultural, recreational, historic or other resources, planned growth or land use, or travel patterns. They also must not require the relocation of significant numbers of people. Categorical Exclusions may require additional environmental analysis and coordination to confirm whether the designation is appropriate.

Other examples of projects that can qualify as Categorical Exclusions include rehabilitating highways, installing ramp meters, adding landscaping, installing utilities along and across highways, and installing fencing, pavement markings, traffic signals and railroad warnings.

ADOT is developing a second Memorandum of Understanding with the Federal Highway Administration under what’s known as the NEPA Assignment Program for highway projects that require either an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement. That agreement is expected to be in place later this year.

Short closure of US 89 north of Page scheduled this week

PAGE – The Arizona Department of Transportation advises drivers around Page to expect delays in both directions on US 89 at Glen Canyon Bridge on Tuesday, January 9, between 1 and 1:30 p.m. This short closure is necessary for crews to repair roadway lighting fixtures on both sides of the road.

Drivers should proceed through the work zone with caution, slow down and watch for construction personnel and equipment.

Portions of state routes 261, 273 to close for winter Tuesday, Jan. 2

PHOENIX – State routes 261 and 273 in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona will close for the winter on Tuesday, January 2, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation. They are among a handful of routes across the state that close for the winter and reopen in the spring.

State Route 261 will close between milepost 404.9, several miles south of State Route 260, and the SR 273 junction at Crescent Lake.
State Route 273 will close between Sunrise Park and Big Lake. The 4-mile portion of SR 273 between SR 260 and Sunrise Park remains open to provide access to the ski area.

Three other highways have already closed for the winter.

State Route 67 between Jacob Lake (US 89A) and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park.
State Route 473 to Hawley Lake in the White Mountains.
A portion of State Route 366 that leads up Mount Graham near Safford.

Tips on winter driving are available at azdot.gov/KnowSnow.

ADOT, GEICO partner to offer rest area Safe Phone Zones

PHOENIX – As drivers take to Arizona’s highways over the holidays, Arizona Department of Transportation rest area Safe Phone Zones sponsored by GEICO encourage motorists to pull off the road before using smartphones for talking, texting and more.

“Even a moment’s distraction can be deadly,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “We are at our best as drivers when we are focused on the road, rested and sober. Using Safe Phone Zones at rest areas allows drivers to stay connected in a safe way.”

Taking your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel or mind off the task of driving is a hazard, regardless of the reason for doing so. Texting while driving is an especially great concern because it distracts visually, manually and cognitively. During the 5 seconds a person can look away from the road to send or receive a text, a car going 55 mph can travel the length of a football field.

The ADOT partnership began in 2014, with GEICO sponsoring Safe Phone Zones at 14 rest areas to encourage drivers to safely and conveniently use their phones and other mobile devices for calling, texting, navigating and accessing mobile apps. Signs bearing the GEICO logo alert motorists to Safe Phone Zones at each rest area.

GEICO has similar partnerships with Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Virginia and Texas.

More facts and tips on ways to avoid distracted driving can be found at SafePhoneZone.com as well as at Geico.com/More.

Weekend Travel Advisory

PHOENIX – Motorists in Arizona driving to holiday destinations won’t encounter any scheduled freeway closures for construction work during or between the Christmas and New Year’s holiday weekends.

The Arizona Department of Transportation will not schedule any full closures for construction or maintenance work on state highways between Friday, December 22 and Tuesday, January 2, in order to limit traffic restrictions and promote safety over the holidays.

While no closures are planned, travelers should be aware that existing improvement project work-zone restrictions will remain in place. Motorists should allow extra travel time and use caution when driving in work zones.

To encourage smart driving decisions, ADOT’s electronic highway signs at times will display holiday-themed safety messages.

Because unexpected delays can occur due to crashes, disabled vehicles and weather, motorists traveling during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays should:

  • Pack extra drinking water and snacks
  • Avoid the busiest travel times, if possible
  • Be patient and obey speed limits – speeding is a leading cause of crashes
  • Get plenty of rest before driving – drowsy driving is unsafe
  • Check vehicles, including tire pressure, engine belts and fluid levels
  • If traveling to the high country, pack cold-weather clothes and blankets
  • Never drive while impaired – arrange for a designated driver or a ride service

Another option for emergency communications is a Citizens Band or Amateur Radio. Some areas are void of cell phone coverage. Amateur radio requires a license, which is relatively easy to obtain but requires you to take an exam. A citizens band radio does not require a license, but you must follow the rules and regulations in Part 95 of 47 C.F.R. The FCC does allow you to use amateur radio or the General Mobile Radio Service frequencies (both which require a license normally) to call for help in an emergency. Channel 9 of the citizens band radio service is reserved for emergencies only.

Real-time highway conditions are available on ADOT’s Arizona Traveler Information site at az511.gov, by calling 511 and through ADOT’s Twitter feed, @ArizonaDOT. When a freeway closure or other major traffic event occurs, our free app available at ADOTAlerts.com will send critical information directly to app users in affected areas – where possible, in advance of alternate routes.

Employee innovation helps ADOT reopen freeways faster after pavement treatment

PHOENIX – After asphalt lanes get a rejuvenating seal designed to reduce cracking and extend the life of pavement, an innovation by Arizona Department of Transportation employees allows crews to reopen freeways faster.

Using scrap metal, ADOT maintenance workers fashioned what’s essentially a reverse stencil – a diamond-shaped template that keeps the oil-based seal off of white HOV markings within lanes. They also designed a metal arm to lift and transport the template from one HOV diamond to the next.

While applying the seal doesn’t affect lane striping, HOV markers within lanes once had to be repainted before a freeway could reopen. In addition to shortening the full closures required to apply the seal, saving the time and money needed to repaint HOV markings adds up to $310 for each diamond.

According to Mark Kilian, an ADOT highway operations technical supervisor, using the reverse stencil usually involves two trucks, each transporting and placing one template. This process improvement, he said, is designed to better serve drivers, who are ADOT’s customers.

“We had a major interstate shut down, and we wanted to make sure we can get it open as soon as possible, so we have to be as efficient as possible,” Kilian said.

This innovation is another example of ADOT’s commitment to continuous improvement through the Arizona Management System (AMS) championed by Governor Doug Ducey. AMS challenges all employees to identify and develop ways to deliver more value for taxpayers.

“Every time that we are successful at something like this,” Kilian said, “it gives us even more motivation to go out and find new innovation and ideas to help us make processes easier.”