The “Spine” is a section of the Interstate 17/Interstate 10 corridor that carries almost half the traffic in the Phoenix area. Public input is being sought to make improvements to the Spine. Bob Hazlett, senior engineering project manager for the Maricopa Association of Governments and project manager for the Spine Study, will discuss the plans.
Ted Simons: "The Spine" is a major section of the I-17 and I-10 corridor that carries almost half of the Phoenix area's freeway traffic. But The Spine needs to be updated and for more on that we welcome Bob Hazlett, senior engineering project manager for The Maricopa Association of Governments. Good to have you here, thanks for joining us.
Bob Hazlett: Thanks for asking us to be here.
Ted Simons: Where exactly and what exactly is the spine?
Bob Hazlett: Well, the spine is the -- what we call the central nervous system to the entire freeway system and it is actually interstate 10 and interstate 17 that begins up north where I-17 meets lope 101 and extends down about 35 miles, seen on screen right here, all the way down to loop 202, the future south mountain freeway, it's that entire corridor and that's more than likely about 40% of the traffic, finds its way onto that every day.
Ted Simons: And now, you are working on a master plan to improve the spine? How?
Bob Hazlett: Yes, one of the things is is that first off we're still growing as a community here in the valley. I mean, our current population projections are we're going to grow at 6 million people by 2040. We've got more folks coming in. We have some known congestion issues and we're trying to figure out what we can do to address a lot of these traffic issues. Widening may not be the answer but widening may be the answer and what we're looking for is for public comment and public input on this because again, we don't want to just widen just for widening's sake.
Ted Simons: And when you're talking about future needs, are you talking about business interests, are you talking about faster commutes? What are you talking about?
Bob Hazlett: I think it's about all of the above, when you think of how much traffic is on the spine from a day-to-day basis, people that are commuting to their businesses, it's people that are going to schools, it's people going for shopping, social trips, it's just all kinds of folks that are all, and it's also, of course, our public transportation users, as well. So we have a lot of folks that use this corridor, depending on it on a day-to-day basis.
Ted Simons: Is there an effort as well to connect neighborhoods, to make sure the spine doesn't become divisive for lack of a better word?
Bob Hazlett: Absolutely. There's always been talk about widening these freeway corridors and some past studies have tried to look at that and we're creating a giant wall between neighborhoods. And I believe what we want to do here is not only just look at improving your traffic experience up and down interstates 10 and 17 but we want to make certain that people can get to that corridor, that they can get on and off that corridor and also get across the corridor, because there's a lot of places where people are having problems getting across. Name your road, camelback or Indian school or down south at Chandler boulevard or ray road. People are having problems getting across so we want to make certain that folks can have that connectivity.
Ted Simons: I know you're looking around the areas, as you mentioned around the freeways, too. Were there environmental studies involved with this? What was found?
Bob Hazlett: Yes, previously there were two environmental studies that went on that took a look at a lot of different issues and what we found is that yes, we do have some environmental concerns that we always have to be working through and this study, of course, will address those as best as we can. I think the biggest thing we want to do is make certain that we can get something that can keep this as the backbone of the entire transportation system, and again, we want folks to come to these public meetings and give us advice and a shout-out as to what we should do here.
Ted Simons: As far as money? A master plan sounds like big bucks.
Bob Hazlett: The master plan is about a 30 month process and we're roughly about eight months into it, but the regional transportation plan, the Maricopa association of governments does to plan out our entire freeway system for our entire transportation system for the next 20 plus years, it has money programmed at a billion and a half dollars to be able to improve this corridor. We have a lot of capital out there, if you will, to be able to do some things and some of those things, we're going to try to address some of those known bottle necks right now, to help out folks getting south of baseline road, trying to get those sooner rather than later.
Ted Simons: Someone's listening, watching right now, they're saying I want to make a comment because I don't like A., B., C., how do they do it?
Bob Hazlett: There's a couple of ways. Spine.azmag.gov. If you go to that site, that will give you information on where to go for our public meetings that are happening. We have one up north, center, south, those are happening over the next two weeks. We also have a very interactive tool that uses an Internet gaming thing, metro quest where folks can actually tap on that and be able to give us their thoughts and their opinions. It's a very interactive tool, allows you to be able to look on a map and pinpoint where you think the problems are, tell us whether you want to add more lanes or whether or not you want to add more special lanes for public transportation, or whether you want to add more lanes or abilities for bikes to get back and forth.
Ted Simons: That website one more time.
Bob Hazlett: Spine.azmag.gov.
Ted Simons: And you can do whatever you want to your heart's content?
Bob Hazlett: We're very excited about it and we encourage folks to be a part of this.
Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us, we appreciate it.
Bob Hazlett: Thank you so much.
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Bob Hazlett:Senior Engineering Project Manager and Project Manager, Maricopa Association of Governments and The Spine Study;