Work at Interstate 40 and Bellemont traffic interchange continues this week

BELLEMONT – The Arizona Department of Transportation is scheduled to continue paving at the Bellemont traffic interchange next week as part of the improvement project on Interstate 40 from Parks to Riordan.

ADOT advises drivers to allow extra travel time while work occurs on the eastbound ramps (Exit 185) as follows:

· Tuesday, Sept. 26, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
· Thursday, Sept. 28, from noon to 6 p.m.
· Friday, Sept. 29, from 4:30 a.m. to noon.

Motorists can use the interchanges at Parks (milepost 178) and A-1 Mountain (milepost 190) to travel between eastbound I-40 and Bellemont. Signs will mark the detour routes. The Bellemont bridge over I-40 will remain open at all times, and no restrictions are scheduled on the westbound I-40 ramps.

For more information about this project, visit azdot.gov/I40Paving.

Drivers should use caution and watch for construction personnel and equipment.

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

Thermal cameras at Loop 101 ramps successfully detect wrong-way vehicles

PHOENIX – Thermal cameras now being tested for detecting wrong-way vehicles on freeway off-ramps in the Phoenix area successfully alerted authorities to two recent overnight incidents along Loop 101 (Agua Fria Freeway) in the northwest Valley.

Early Sunday, September 10, a thermal camera being tested at the Loop 101 interchange at 75th Avenue detected a wrong-way vehicle entering the eastbound freeway. The detection triggered an alert to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Traffic Operations Center, which activated warnings on overhead message boards, and to the Arizona Department of Public Safety. State Troopers found the vehicle stopped along the left shoulder of northbound 101 near Grand Avenue, and no crashes occurred.

Early Monday, September 11, a thermal camera detected a vehicle apparently traveling westbound in the eastbound lanes of Bell Road that then made a wrong-way turn to the northbound Loop 101 off-ramp. ADOT and DPS were again alerted to the detection. Video from the thermal camera shows the driver turning around at the top of the ramp and apparently returning to Bell Road. State Troopers who responded didn’t locate the vehicle or driver.

ADOT recently programmed existing thermal cameras used for traffic-signal sequencing at 11 freeway interchanges to test detection of vehicles entering off-ramps in the wrong direction.

Testing of these thermal cameras is taking place while ADOT moves forward on the installation of a comprehensive pilot wrong-way vehicle detection and warning system along a 15-mile stretch of Interstate 17 in Phoenix. The system, scheduled to be fully operational by early next year, also will use thermal cameras to detect wrong-way vehicles in an effort to reduce the risk of serious crashes.

This testing is one way ADOT is moving toward expanding wrong-way countermeasures as quickly as possible beyond the I-17 prototype system currently being installed.

In addition to thermal cameras, the I-17 prototype system will use warning signs for wrong-way drivers and advisories for right-way drivers. The system will automatically focus highway cameras on the wrong-way vehicle and send automated alerts to the Highway Patrol, helping troopers intercept vehicles faster.

On the I-17 ramps, wrong-way vehicles will trigger alerts, including illuminated signs with flashing lights, aimed at getting drivers to stop. The system will immediately warn other drivers through overhead message boards as well as law enforcement. Cameras in the area will automatically turn to face the wrong-way vehicle so traffic operators can better track it. On the freeway, thermal cameras placed at one-mile intervals will signal when a wrong-way vehicle passes so State Troopers can plan their response and get out in front of the wrong-way driver, providing a faster response.

ADOT commercial truck safety course a hit in Mexico

PHOENIX – An Arizona Department of Transportation safety training program for commercial vehicle drivers using international ports of entry is proving so popular with trucking companies and government officials in Mexico that ADOT has doubled the number of training sessions planned for this fall.

“Trade with Mexico is one way our highways are Key Commerce Corridors that drive Arizona’s economy,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “With the support of officials in Sonora, Mexico, we are expanding a program that’s boosting international commerce while ensuring that commercial vehicles are safe.”

Tim Lane, director of ADOT’s Enforcement and Compliance Division, which conducts truck safety inspections at commercial ports of entry, said 46 commercial vehicle drivers attended the International Border Inspection Qualification program in the Sonoran capital of Hermosillo on Aug. 22 and 23.

Representatives from the Sonora governor’s office attended the event in Hermosillo, including Natalia Rivera Grijalva, chief of staff for Governor Claudia Artemiza Pavlovich Arellano, and Secretary Ricardo Martínez Terrazas for the Department of Infrastructure and Urban Development of Sonora. The event was covered by local newspapers, television and radio.

The program teaches commercial vehicle drivers what to expect during safety inspections when they enter Arizona through ports at San Luis, Nogales and Douglas. Including sessions in San Luis Río Colorado, Mexico, and Douglas, 89 drivers have completed training and testing in the program’s first six weeks.

Commercial vehicle drivers who pass examinations at the end of the program are able to communicate with ADOT safety inspectors using WhatsApp, a popular smartphone messaging app. Qualified drivers can send photos of potential safety issues to inspectors, who tell them whether the photos show violations and, if so, how to correct them. Commercial vehicle drivers who have participated in IBIQ training can use WhatsApp at the border ports of entry in Nogales, San Luis and Douglas.

The International Border Inspection Qualification program is part of ADOT’s Border Liaison Unit launched last fall to train commercial vehicle drivers and mechanics on safety inspections at the border. The goal is for trucking companies to make any needed repairs before they approach the border, saving the companies time and money and allowing ADOT inspectors to focus on trucks that are more likely to have safety concerns.

The program is working: ADOT inspectors have conducted fewer border inspections over the past year but have found more violations, increasing safety on Arizona roads. Those improvements have led to more trucks crossing in Arizona instead of elsewhere, boosting the state’s economy.

The International Border Inspection Qualification program stems from ADOT’s use of the Arizona Management System championed by Governor Doug Ducey. This approach to continuous improvement empowers employees at state agencies to come up with innovative ways to better serve customers.

The program initially scheduled four training sessions this fall but has added four more at the request of Mexican trucking officials, including one held last week in Douglas, Arizona. The remaining schedule:

* Sept. 19-20 in Nogales, Sonora
* Oct. 3-4 in Douglas, Arizona (to be conducted in English)
* Oct. 11-12 in San Luis Río Colorado, Sonora
* Oct. 24-25 in Culiacán, Sinaloa
* A yet-to-be-determined November date in Hermosillo, Sonora

ADOT partners with Tucson-area tribe on Construction Academy

TUCSON – Twenty-seven members of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe earned their certification to work as flaggers on tribal construction projects through a free Construction Academy sponsored by the Arizona Department of Transportation.

After completing a series of weekend courses, participants in the Pascua Yaqui Reservation Tribal Employment Rights Organization Construction Academy are now qualified to work on road projects on the reservation, located in the southwest Tucson area.

Fifteen participants will serve as flaggers for six months on road projects administered by the Tribal Employment Rights Organization, while the remaining 12 will work as general laborers. After six months, participants will switch roles.

“The Pascua Yaqui Tribe is expanding its horizons by offering increased opportunity for learning, particularly with our youth,” Tribal Chairman Robert Valencia said. “We are very interested in developing additional programs similar to the Construction Academy in the very near future and have very high expectations that the outcomes of this Academy will be successful.”

ADOT offers the Construction Academy Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program through its On-The-Job-Training Supportive Services Program, part of the agency’s Business Engagement and Compliance Office. All Construction Academy programs are designed to remove barriers to construction careers for women and minority individuals and to help participants move on to construction apprenticeships and eventually reach journeyman status, with ADOT continuing to provide support and guidance.

“Construction Academy programs benefit the transportation industry while they connect people with careers,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “Our partnership with the Pascua Yaqui Tribe is one way we are providing this opportunity to more and more people around Arizona.”

Flagger certification is just one of the training opportunities available to women, minorities and members of economically disadvantaged groups, including those who are out of work, through these ADOT programs. Individuals also can receive training that will help them become concrete finishers, block masons, highway surveyors, heavy equipment operators and commercial drivers.

ADOT’s On-The-Job Training Supportive Services Program will receive $112,000 in funding from the Federal Highway Administration to continue offering workforce-development initiatives in the coming federal fiscal year, which begins in October.

In addition to training provided directly by ADOT, Construction Academy programs sponsored by ADOT also are offered through Gila Community College, Gateway Community College and, starting this fall, Pima Community College and Pima County Joint Technical Education School District.

ADOT covers training costs and fees for participants and provides support including transportation and child care assistance, job-readiness training and safety gear such as hard hats and protective eyewear.

For more information or to apply for a Construction Academy, please visit azdot.gov/BECO, call 602.712.7761 or pick up materials at the ADOT Business Engagement and Compliance Office, 1801 W. Jefferson St., Suite 101, in Phoenix.

State Route 366 reopens on Mount Graham

PHOENIX – State Route 366 has reopened on Mount Graham in southeastern Arizona after a six-week closure due to the danger of flooding and debris flows after the Frye Fire, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

The road, also known as Swift Trail, connects with US 191 about 20 miles south of Safford. It had been closed at Ladybug Saddle near milepost 131, but as of Thursday, Sept. 14, it’s open again to Columbine at milepost 143.

The U.S. Forest Service is reopening areas of the Coronado National Forest that were closed due to the Frye Fire, but some recreational sites remain closed pending repairs. More information is available at www.fs.usda.gov/coronado.

Drivers may encounter ADOT or Forest Service work crews along SR 366 and could experience delays up to 30 minutes.

Beware of flood damage when buying a used vehicle

PHOENIX – After hurricanes that caused widespread flooding in Texas and Florida, Arizonans in the market for used cars have even more reason to pay close attention to a vehicle’s condition and history, especially in private sales.

As happened after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, vehicles damaged by floodwater are likely to find their way to Arizona and other states and offered to unsuspecting buyers.

If a vehicle is flood-damaged, the title should say “salvage” or “flood damage.” But scammers can and do fraudulently remove flood history from vehicle titles.

“We want to make sure potential buyers remain vigilant when looking at used vehicles and not sign anything until the vehicle has been checked over bumper to bumper,” said Willie Hall, detective sergeant with ADOT’s Office of Inspector General, which investigates fraud involving titles and vehicle sales. “Flood-damaged vehicles that have been repackaged and dressed up are a common scam after major weather events like what we’ve seen recently.”

Potential buyers should closely inspect vehicles and be prepared to walk away if things don’t smell right – quite literally in some cases.

  • Check out all of the vehicle’s nooks and crannies. Look inside under the carpet and floor mats and examine the trunk for dirt, silt and mold. Check under the dashboard and other hard-to-reach places as well. Criminals usually don’t clean all of those places. Finally, take a good whiff in those areas. Water damage leaves a distinctive smell.
  • Check the electrical and mechanical components. Water wreaks havoc on electrical systems, so check to see if any of those systems aren’t working quite right. Also check the engine for signs of rust or even random new parts. Get under the vehicle and check the suspension for water damage. Any of those things could be a sign that you’re in danger of buying a flood-damaged vehicle.

It’s always a good idea to have any used vehicle you’re looking at buying checked out by a trusted auto mechanic.

A vehicle identification number can be used to obtain the vehicle history through an online service that may charge a fee. This check can uncover a vehicle’s status as “salvage” or “non-repairable,” as well as maintenance problems, collisions, insurance claims and titles issued in other states.

Generally speaking, when it comes to buying a used vehicle in a private sale, it’s important to take the time and ask lots of questions. There are no dumb questions in a big purchase like this. If the seller is acting suspiciously, being evasive or uncooperative, walk away. Take the time to find the right purchase.

Additional tips can be found on ADOT’s website at azdot.gov/CarBuyingTips.


Seek help if you’ve been scammed. ADOT is here to help victims of fraud involving vehicle titles, registrations and driver licenses. Call our 24-hour fraud hotline at 877.712.2370 or email fraud@azdot.gov.

Paving continues at southbound I-17 off-ramp at JW Powell Boulevard Monday

FLAGSTAFF – The Arizona Department of Transportation continues with a pavement-improvement project on the southbound exit to JW Powell Boulevard from I-17 (exit 337). Crews will work between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 28. While paving occurs, the ramp will be closed along with the right lane of southbound I-17 at JW Powell Boulevard.

Motorists looking to access State Route 89A and the Flagstaff airport can use the exit at Kachina Trail.

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 the ADOT Traveler Information site at www.az511.gov, follow ADOT on Twitter (@ArizonaDOT) or call 511, except while driving.

Interstate 40 eastbound ramp work at Bellemont begins tomorrow

BELLEMONT – The Arizona Department of Transportation is ahead of schedule for ramp repairs at the Bellemont traffic interchange and will begin reconstructing the eastbound Interstate 40 on- and off ramps at Exit 185 early Tuesday, Aug. 22.

Work on the westbound ramps is anticipated to be completed early Tuesday morning, and the ramps will be reopened for travel at 7 a.m. Once the westbound ramps are open, the eastbound on- and off-ramps at Bellemont will be closed for construction from 7 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 22, to 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31. The Bellemont bridge over I-40 will remain open at all times.

Motorists can use the interchanges at Parks (milepost 178) and A-1 Mountain (milepost 190) to travel between eastbound I-40 and Bellemont. Signs will mark the detour routes.

Ramp repairs are anticipated to be completed in time for the Labor Day weekend with no restrictions to the Bellemont area.

The ramp reconstruction is part of a larger project underway between Parks and Riordan that includes paving, new guardrail and minor bridge repairs at the Parks, Bellemont and A-1 Mountain traffic interchanges. Please visit the project website for more information at: azdot.gov/I40Paving.

Drivers should use caution and watch for personnel and equipment while construction is underway. Please allow for extra time for travel.

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 ccole@azdot.gov. For real-time highway conditions statewide, visit the ADOT Traveler Information site at www.az511.gov, follow ADOT on Twitter (@ArizonaDOT) or call 511, except while driving.

ADOT detectives nab 89-year-old accused of using stolen identity for 28 years

PHOENIX – A Mesa resident who allegedly used the identity of his deceased brother to collect nearly $300,000 in Social Security benefits has been charged with forgery and fraud schemes thanks to Arizona Department of Transportation detectives’ use of facial recognition training and technology.

After being alerted by the facial recognition system, ADOT’s Office of Inspector General found that Frank Becht, 89, had for the past 28 years been using the name, date of birth and Social Security number of his brother, Kenneth Becht, who died in 1989.

In September 2009, Becht applied for an Arizona identification card under the stolen name at the Mesa MVD office. In April 2010, Becht applied for a driver license under his real name. He updated each of the credentials in the last couple of years.

ADOT’s facial recognition system found Becht’s photo on his profile and a profile under his brother’s identity. Detectives, who have FBI training in facial recognition, determined that both of the photos were of Becht.

ADOT’s investigation found that the Social Security Administration hadn’t been made aware that Becht’s brother, Kenneth, had died 28 years ago, and therefore had been paying out benefits. ADOT detectives found Kenneth Becht’s death certificate and provided it to federal officials.

The investigation also revealed that Becht had used his brother’s identity on credit cards and state-issued IDs in Maryland, Virginia and Nevada.

ADOT detectives arrested Becht, who was released without being booked. Charges for fraud schemes and forgery have been filed with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

This case is one more example of how facial recognition technology used by ADOT’s Office of Inspector General protects Arizonans’ identities and helps prevent fraud involving state-issued driver licenses and identification cards.

Step by step, ADOT facial recognition process guards against identity fraud

PHOENIX – Since the Arizona Department of Transportation began using facial recognition technology and training in 2015 to protect Arizonans from identity theft, detectives have brought more than 100 cases to court.

It’s a process that begins when a person applies for or renews a driver license or ID card at a Motor Vehicle Division office or Authorized Third Party business, and it is a seamless part of the customer’s visit.

After the customer’s picture is taken, the photo goes through a check against all others in the state driver license database while the customer finishes the application process.

All of the analysis takes place inside a computer, and if the system finds the applicant’s photo likely matches another photo under a different name, it flags the photos, putting a temporary stop on printing the permanent card. The photos are then sent to FBI-trained staff members at ADOT’s Office of Inspector General where they undergo three levels of review to verify that the photos are of the same person.

“This high-tech tool has really enhanced our ability to catch identity thieves,” said Michael Lockhart, chief of the Office of Inspector General. “When we couple this technology with other security measures like central credential issuance, it allows us to stop these criminals and keep Arizona IDs out of their hands.”

The detectives and staff members are trained to look for similarities in facial features and even account for identical twins. If photos are confirmed to be the same person on multiple profiles, ADOT detectives will open an investigation.

If detectives determine that a person is committing fraud, the license or ID card is never printed. The temporary credentials customers receive at MVD offices and Authorized Third Party businesses expire after 30 days.

ADOT’s Office of Inspector General investigates fraud involving driver license and identification card applications; vehicle sales by licensed and unlicensed dealers; and vehicle titles and registration. It also assists state, local and federal law enforcement agencies with investigations.

For more information about applying for an Arizona driver license or ID card, please visit: azdot.gov/driverlicenseinfo.