Paving scheduled on Interstate 17 near McGuireville next week

Motorists traveling southbound on Interstate 17 near McGuireville should allow extra time while paving is underway on three miles of roadway. Construction is scheduled from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, July 24, through Thursday, July 27. A single-lane restriction will be in place to accommodate work between mileposts 293 and 296, located near the McGuireville Road exit.

Drivers should use caution and watch for construction personnel and equipment while paving is underway.

Schedules are subject to change based on weather and other unforeseen factors. For more information, call the ADOT Project Information Line at 855.712.8530 or email Projects@azdot.gov. For real-time highway conditions statewide, visit ADOT’s Traveler Information Site at www.az511.gov, follow ADOT on Twitter (@ArizonaDOT) or call 511, except while driving.

ADOT Blog: Arizona’s silver-screen highways reel in filmmakers

[Please visit the ADOT Blog to see a multimedia presentation of this article.]

Hollywood loves Arizona’s highways and picturesque landscapes.

Filmmakers have been bringing their lights, camera and action to Arizona highway locations for more than 75 years. Director John Ford sent a crew here in 1939 to shoot “Grapes of Wrath” on Route 66, and last year Michael Bay filmed scenes in Arizona for the fifth installment of the “Transformers” series.

Parts of “Transformers: The Last Knight,” which opened June 21, were filmed at Luke Air Force Base, a Valley junkyard and along Loop 303 and State Route 88. Paramount Pictures obtained a permit from the Arizona Department of Transportation to shoot its highway scenes (you can see the 303 ever so briefly at 2:14 in this preview).

“We had numerous action sequences that involved specialty vehicles, aircraft and pyrotechnics on ADOT highways,” said Denton Hanna, “Transformers” location manager.

He praised ADOT for its assistance and problem-solving while Paramount was filming in Arizona.

“I cannot overstate the importance of ADOT in the success of filming these action road scenes in Phoenix,” Denton said.

Arizona’s proximity to Hollywood, clear weather and scenic highways across a variety of terrain lure filmmakers here for big budget films, westerns, documentaries and commercials. Many of those shoots involve highway scenes that require an ADOT permit.

ADOT officials work with the Arizona Office of Film & Digital Media, to assist film and other media productions.

ADOT issues no-cost permits for filming along its highways with the understanding that film productions generate significant spending within the state.

The “Transformers” production had close to 300 people working at Arizona locations for three weeks, boosting the economy through buying meals, lodging, fuel and other ancillary spending.

ADOT’s requirements for film permits, including adequate liability insurance, safeguard the state’s investment in its highways and ensure there are no costs to taxpayers.

The agency issued 12 film permits in 2015, another 18 in 2016 and 12 already this year through this month, according to Jennifer Cannon, ADOT manager of statewide permit services.

ADOT tries to accommodate film productions even when a producer’s stunts get outlandish. One crew tethered a vehicle from a crane off the Navajo Bridge in an automobile “bungee jump.”

Every precaution was taken to prevent damage to the bridge or debris falling into the Colorado River, Cannon said.

“We don’t generally say no,” she said. “We try to figure out a way to make it happen.”

That can involve a lot of back and forth between ADOT and location managers to protect the traveling public and still get the shots filmmakers want.

ADOT is working with a filmmaker for a complicated shoot recently with multiple cameras and hundreds of extras marching along State Route 80 from Bisbee to Lowell in a historical re-enactment. Typically, the highway can only be closed for short intervals.

“Overall, we want to keep traffic and business flowing,” Cannon said.

A recent shoot south of Sedona involved short closures of SR 179 to film a bicycle rider near Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. The footage is for a pharmaceutical commercial.

Cannon ticked off a handful of car brands that have recently filmed commercials in Arizona, including one on US 93 near Hoover Dam.

Of course, big budget movie productions get the most attention when they visit the state, spending millions of dollars and hiring local workers and contractors.

Arizona’s motion picture history covers a road atlas of locations for films like “Little Miss Sunshine,” and “Kingdom” from a decade ago to “Forrest Gump” and “Three Kings” in the 1990s.

In “The Kingdom,” filmed in 2006, a stretch of the Loop 202 was a stand-in for Saudi Arabia with highway signs in Arabic temporarily posted on overpasses.

In 1994, Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump was filmed running in downtown Flagstaff. In another scene, he’s shown jogging past the giant twin arrows at the Twin Arrows Trading Post west of Winslow. He ends his epic three-year super-marathon on US 163 in Monument Valley just north of the Arizona line.

Downtown Flagstaff and other Northern Arizona highway locations were also used for location shots in “National Lampoon Vacation,” the 1983 comedy starring Chevy Chase, that featured a humorously brief visit at a Grand Canyon scenic overlook.

Route 66 and US 89 figured prominently in two counter-culture road movies. In “Easy Rider,” (1969) Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper cruise on motorcycles across Northern Arizona and the Navajo Reservation before they connect with Jack Nicholson in New Mexico.

Musicians James Taylor and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys hit the Arizona road in a high-performance 1955 Chevy for “Two-Lane Blacktop,” (1971) a road movie that flew under the radar gun when it was released.

Going way back to “Grapes of Wrath,” Route 66 was briefly featured in bookend scenes with the Joad family from Oklahoma entering Arizona at Lupton and leaving the state on the Old Trails Bridge in Topock.

After filming “Transformers” in Arizona last summer, Wahlberg gave a shout-out to Arizona on Instagram: “Hey Arizona. Thanks for letting us shoot T5 here. It’s been awesome. Amazing, amazing state here.”

Paving on Interstate 40 west of Williams begins Monday

WILLIAMS – To address the beating a section of Interstate 40 just west of Williams has taken over many winters, the Arizona Department of Transportation will begin reconstructing five miles of roadway in both directions on Monday, July 24.

The $34 million project, which will start with the eastbound direction between mileposts 156 and 161, will literally rebuild the roadway from the ground up, including laying a new foundation.

Drivers heading east on I-40 toward Williams and Flagstaff will cross the median on a temporary road and share lanes with westbound I-40 traffic through the project area, with one lane of travel in each direction. Drivers should slow down and budget for extra travel time.

Crews will rebuild the westbound side of the interstate next summer.

ADOT is currently repaving 12 miles of I-40 in each direction closer to Flagstaff between mileposts 179 and 191. The $13.9 million project, which is about halfway complete, includes minor bridge repairs at the Bellemont, A-1 Mountain and Riordan overpasses as well as new guardrail.

Drivers should use caution and watch for construction personnel and equipment while paving is underway.

Schedules are subject to change based on weather and other unforeseen factors. For more information, please call Coralie Cole, ADOT senior community relations officer, at 602.501.4899 or email: ccole@azdot.gov. For real-time highway conditions statewide, visit ADOT’s Traveler Information Site at www.az511.gov, follow ADOT on Twitter (@ArizonaDOT) or call 511, except while driving.

Diverging diamond interchange proposed for I-17 at Happy Valley Road

PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Transportation is proposing a diverging diamond interchange to replace roundabouts at the Interstate 17/Happy Valley Road interchange as a way to provide efficient and safe traffic flow for a growing area of north Phoenix.

A diverging diamond interchange has one major difference from standard diamond interchanges common around Arizona: Local street traffic makes a temporary shift to the left side while crossing the freeway, allowing for direct left turns onto entrance ramps without waiting at an additional traffic signal.

In examining options, ADOT determined that a diverging diamond interchange would be better able to manage the growing volume of traffic at Happy Valley Road and reduce the amount of time drivers spend waiting at traffic signals. It also enhances safety by reducing the number of points where directions of travel conflict.

More than 80 diverging diamond interchanges have been constructed in 29 states since 2009.

ADOT’s I-17 project also will include reconstructing the I-17 interchange at Pinnacle Peak Road, still as a traditional diamond interchange but with increased traffic capacity.

ADOT will host an informational meeting about the project the evening of Tuesday, July 25, with staff members available to answer questions:

What: ADOT meeting on I-17 interchanges project
When: Tuesday, July 25, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (formal presentation at 6:30 p.m.)
Where: Goelet A. Beuf Community Center, 3435 W. Pinnacle Peak Road, Phoenix

Building a diverging diamond interchange at Happy Valley Road also will have less of an impact on local businesses and commuters, since traffic will continue to use the existing interchange while most of the construction work is taking place. The project will replace the two roundabout intersections that have been in use at the Happy Valley Road interchange since 2001.

ADOT continuously seeks innovative approaches to enhance safety and improve traffic flow, and the diverging diamond configuration is one of the tools available as interchanges are built or upgraded. Diverging diamond interchanges also will be built at two locations along the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway: Desert Foothills Parkway and 17th Avenue.

The updated Regional Transportation Plan managed by the Maricopa Association of Governments, the regional transportation planning agency, provides funding for a project to reconstruct the I-17 interchanges at Happy Valley and Pinnacle Peak roads, scheduled to start as soon as fall 2018.

ADOT designs and constructs Phoenix-area freeway improvement projects based on the 20-year Regional Transportation Plan approved by Maricopa County voters in 2004.

Updated Arizona Driver License Manual now available online

PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division has released the updated Arizona Driver License Manual on the ADOT website. In addition to providing basic information essential to safe driving, the newest version of the manual also includes language to educate motorists on handling law enforcement traffic stops.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety, in partnership with local law enforcement agencies, created the language that outlines best practices for motorists who are pulled over.

The full details are contained in Section 7 of the manual, pages 56-57, which can be found here: www.azdot.gov/manual.

Among the major points detailed in this section are:

When observing a law enforcement vehicle with its lights on, a driver should yield to the right side of the road and stop in a safe location off the main roadway as soon as practical unless the officer directs the driver to a different location in a safe spot.
Drivers should comply with a law enforcement officer’s orders and failure to do so can result in an arrest.
Drivers should put the car in park and remain in the vehicle, and all occupants should keep their seat belts fastened. The driver should keep his or her hands on the steering wheel, wait for the officer to make contact, consider lowering the windows to help the officer see and hear inside the vehicle, turn on the interior light if it’s nighttime, and inform the officer of any weapons that may be in the vehicle.
Drivers should not reach around inside the vehicle unless informing the officer and receiving permission, nor should drivers get out of the vehicle unexpectedly or approach the officer.

For more information: https://azdot.gov/mvd.

Paving scheduled on Interstate 40 near I-17 Junction Thursday, July 20

FLAGSTAFF – Motorists traveling eastbound on Interstate 40 to Flagstaff should allow extra time while paving is underway near the I-17 Junction. Construction is scheduled from 4 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, July 20. A single-lane restriction will be in place to accommodate work between mileposts 195 and 197, located one mile west of Butler Avenue.

Drivers should use caution and watch for construction personnel and equipment while paving is underway.

Plan for lane restrictions and possible closure of eastbound Interstate 40 near Bellemont early Thursday, July 13

BELLEMONT – Drivers could be delayed on eastbound I-40 near Bellemont early Thursday, and Mother Nature is to blame. A recent lightning strike damaged a 90-foot pine tree adjacent to travel lanes at milepost 186, and the tree must be removed for safety.

Work is scheduled to occur on eastbound I-40 from 6 to 11 a.m. Thursday, July 13. I-40 will be narrowed to one lane; however, a full closure of eastbound travel lanes might be necessary to prevent debris from entering the roadway.

Drivers should plan to slow down and watch for construction personnel and equipment, as well as law enforcement officers who will be on site to assist with traffic control.

Schedules are subject to change based on weather and other unforeseen factors. For more information, please call the ADOT Project Information Line at 855.712.8530 or email Projects@azdot.gov. For real-time highway conditions statewide, visit ADOT’s Traveler Information Site at www.az511.gov, follow ADOT on Twitter (@ArizonaDOT) or call 511, except while driving.

Drive carefully on SR 69 with firefighting still underway

PHOENIX – While State Route 69 has reopened between Interstate 17 and State Route 169 near Prescott, drivers need to use caution as crews in the area continue fighting the Goodwin Fire, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Those using SR 69 through the affected area should slow down and watch out for vehicles and equipment entering and exiting the highway. In addition, windblown smoke can reduce visibility.

Other options for reaching the Prescott area from the Valley include taking SR 169 west from Interstate 17 or taking SR 89 north from US 93 via US 60 through Wickenburg. Because both SR 169 and SR 89 are one lane in each direction most of the way, heavy traffic can lead to slowing on those routes.

SR 69 closed Tuesday between Cordes Junction and SR 169 as the Goodwin Fire burned near Mayer. It reopened to all traffic Friday morning.

Initial assessments by ADOT suggest that only minimal fire damage occurred along SR 69. Approximately 20 guardrail posts were damaged when fire crossed the highway near Mayer. ADOT will conduct a full assessment once firefighting operations wind down.

For the most current information about highway closures and restrictions statewide, visit ADOT’s Arizona Traveler Information site at az511.gov, follow us on Twitter (@ArizonaDOT) or call 511.

Arizona, Republic of Korea now have driver license reciprocity

PHOENIX – A new agreement between Arizona and the Republic of Korea allows Arizonans staying longer than a year to obtain driver licenses in that country without having to take written and road tests. Licensed drivers from South Korea will receive the same courtesy for stays in Arizona lasting more than a year.

On June 27, Arizona Department of Transportation Director John Halikowski and Key Cheol Lee, the Republic of Korea consul general in Los Angeles, signed a memorandum of understanding formalizing a reciprocity agreement.

“The Republic of Korea is a valued trading and cultural partner for our state,” Halikowski said. “We’re pleased to make it even easier to do business and study in Arizona while minimizing time spent at a Motor Vehicle Division office.”

Arizona has similar reciprocity with Germany and Taiwan, while reciprocity between Arizona and Canada exempts drivers from road tests but still requires the written test.

Long-term visitors from the Republic of Korea who are at least 18 years old can now exchange South Korean driver licenses for Arizona driver licenses. They must have documentation showing they will be here for at least a year and that they have at least six months remaining on their stays. ADOT will coordinate with South Korean officials to verify an applicant’s driving status.

Arizona motor vehicle crash deaths rose to 962 in 2016

PHOENIX – Traffic fatalities on Arizona’s local roads and state highways climbed higher for the second straight year and driver behavior continues to be a leading factor in motor vehicle collisions, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s annual Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report.

In 2016, 962 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes, 65 more than the year before, representing a 7.3 percent increase. The number of collisions also went up, rising 8.6 percent to 126,845. The increases in motor vehicle crashes and fatalities in Arizona follow national trends.

The Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report is a compilation of traffic crash reports provided to ADOT by law enforcement agencies around the state. A glance at the report reveals how better decisions made by motorists can save lives. Seat belts, speeding and reckless driving, and impairment are among the leading factors in traffic fatalities:

  • Buckle up – 250 of those killed last year weren’t using a seat belt.
  • Pay attention and obey speed limits – Speeding too fast for conditions is the most common driver violation and rear end is the most common manner of collision.
  • Don’t drive impaired – Annually, impaired driving crashes account for about 4 percent of all collisions and one-third of fatal collisions. Crashes involving impairment related to alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription medication killed 406 people and injured 4,089 in 2016.

“Making travel safer begins before drivers turn the ignition,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “Too many people make the deadly decision to drive impaired, whether by alcohol, prescription pills or other drugs, and put all of us at risk. None of us should accept this selfish behavior and it’s everyone’s business to stop impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel.”

For the second year in a row, 406 people were killed in impaired driving-related collisions. However, alcohol-related fatalities decreased – falling from 329 people killed in 2015 to 307 in 2016 – while fatalities related to illegal drugs or prescription medication increased – rising from 77 in 2015 to 99 people killed in 2016.

“The gains made in reducing alcohol-related crashes and fatalities are steps in the right direction, but there is still much work to be done,” said Alberto Gutier, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. “Driving impaired is a choice and people need to be aware that it’s a choice they don’t have to make – there are many other ways to get home safely.”

The highest annual number of motor vehicle crash fatalities in Arizona – 1,301 – occurred in 2006. While collisions and fatalities have risen in recent years, 2016 totals are below where they were a decade ago, despite having nearly one million more licensed drivers and registered vehicles traveling today on Arizona’s roadways than in 2007.

“Impaired drivers continue to take the lives of our love ones and it is time for the community to spread the message that impaired driving is unacceptable,” said Col. Frank Milstead, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. “I call on every driver to call 911 if impaired driving is suspected. Friends and family members must make every effort to take the keys away from impaired individuals or to call 911 for help when intervening.”

Pedestrian-involved crashes and fatalities spiked in 2016. The number of pedestrians killed rose to 197 in 2016 from 163 the year before and crashes increased by 16 percent, from 1,408 in 2015 to 1,637 last year.

The number of motorcycle operators and passengers killed in traffic crashes went up in 2016 to 144 from 134 the year before.

Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, noted the decline in the number of fatalities involving people who weren’t using seat belts, which fell from 258 in 2015 to 250 last year.

“While we’re encouraged to see a decrease, one death is still too many,” said Dr. Christ. “Make sure everyone is buckled up every time, regardless of how far, fast or familiar your drive may be.”

Here are other figures from the 2016 Arizona Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report:

  • 574 fatal crashes occurred on other roadways, such as county roads or city streets, and 291 fatal crashes occurred on the state highway system.
  • 525 fatalities occurred in urban areas and 437 deaths occurred in rural areas.
  • Of all alcohol-related crashes, 78.8 percent occurred in urban areas and 21.2 percent in rural areas.
  • Among fatal crashes related to alcohol, 67 percent occurred in urban areas and 33 percent occurred in rural areas.
  • One person was killed in a motor vehicle crash every 9.11 hours.
  • Seven in 10 crashes occurred during daylight hours.
  • More crashes occurred in March than any other month with 11,391.
  • Friday was the peak day of the week for all crashes during 2016 with 22,133, while the most fatal crashes – 150 – occurred on Saturdays.

The ADOT 2016 Arizona Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report is available at azdot.gov/CrashFacts.