“Blinding” dust storms on a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson were reducing visibility and causing severe crashes and fatalities. The likelihood of these storms occurring only increased during monsoon season in the summer. Restricted freight movement and outdated bridge structures on State Route 87 were also not up the task of meeting the increased traffic demands. In order to address these safety concerns, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) began work on a $72 million improvement project. A new travel lane was added in each direction along four miles of I-10, with new turn and travel lanes added in each direction on State Route 87. In addition, new traffic signals were included across the railroad tracks to increase safety for travelers.
Perhaps the biggest new feature of this project was a state-of-the-art dust detection system that allowed for coverage across the entire 10-mile project area. Some of the measures put into place include overhead message boards, variable speed limit signs, closed-circuit cameras, and short-range detectors for blowing dust. Along with these measures, a weather radar dish sits atop a 22-foot-tall pole at the State Route 87 interchange to detect storms more than 40 miles away. ADOT worked in collaboration with the National Weather Service, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and the local community to gather data from the detection system to further the NWS efforts to stay ahead of future weather events. The local community and partners also worked together to help increase safety in the area. The improved operations and early warning measures along I-10 and State Route 87 have reduced in the amount of traffic congestion, crashes, and fatalities — helping all travelers stay safe.