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FLORENCE — Several traffic safety needs identified in the new Pinal County Strategic Transportation Safety Plan have already qualified for $13 million in federal funding, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors was told Wednesday.

These include improvements on Hunt Highway between Bella Vista and Gary roads, and on Gantzel Road between Combs and Ocotillo roads in San Tan Valley. Improvements will include flashing yellow areas, medians and sidewalks, and median modifications for improved sight distance.

Seventy-three miles of center- and edge-line rumble strips will be installed on 15 roads countywide, including Arizona Farms Road north of Florence.

A pedestrian hybrid beacon is to be installed on Kings Ranch Road at Sunrise Sky Drive in Gold Canyon. Also called a HAWK beacon, this is a traffic signal that stays dark until a pedestrian pushes a button to slow and stop traffic so he or she may cross. The location was the site of a fatal pedestrian accident.

In the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017, there were 530 fatal crashes on Pinal County streets, roads and highways, causing a total of 612 deaths, Mike Blankenship with Greenlight Traffic Engineering told the supervisors. In all, there were 36,058 accidents. The plan’s vision is for zero deaths, and the goal is to achieve a “consistent and sustainable annual reduction in traffic deaths on public roads within Pinal County,” Blankenship said.

Pinal County Senior Transportation Planner Kathy Borquez said she’d like to see the study updated in five years, and the crash data updated annually.

The study includes 585 comments from citizens who highlighted hazardous areas on online maps. Most of these issues, 77%, were driver concerns, while 12% were pedestrian hazards and 11% were bicycle-related hazards.

The supervisors will be asked for their formal approval of the plan on Dec. 4, then more projects can be scheduled over the next few years. These include:

  • a pedestrian hybrid beacon at Cottonwood Lane and Kadota Avenue in Casa Grande
  • left-turn lanes at State Route 87 and Kleck Road, and right- and left-turn lanes from state highways onto Kenworthy and Christensen roads in the Coolidge area
  • completing sidewalks on Gantzel Road between Bella Vista Road and Rebecca Lane in San Tan Valley
  • stop signs surrounded by LED lights at 13 intersections countywide, including in the Casa Grande, Coolidge and Eloy areas and the Gila River Indian Community
  • streetlights on Apache Trail and Superstition Boulevard, and wider shoulders and rumble strips on Ironwood Drive, all in Apache Junction
  • rumble strips, markings and other improvements between Coolidge and Eloy

Supervisor Todd House, R-Apache Junction, said it’s unfortunate that a needed safety improvement often doesn’t receive funding until someone is killed. He further noted if a driver isn’t wearing his seat belt in a fatal accident, “your insurance doesn’t have to cover you.”

Kevin Costello, deputy county attorney, said it’s not the county’s place to advise what an insurance policy may or may not cover, but the county can publicize the importance of wearing seat belts.

After “lane departure” and “speeding,” the third-highest factor in accidents with serious injuries or fatalities was a lack of “occupant protection” such as seat belts, the study found.

Greenlight Traffic Engineering prepared the plan in cooperation with Sun Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization, Central Arizona Governments, Maricopa Association of Government and Pinal County. For more information, visit scmpo.org. Point to “Studies & Plans” in the upper-right corner and select “Pinal County Strategic Transportation Safety Plan.”

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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