Queen Creek’s first permanent traffic signal was activated Wednesday, leading the way for seven more by the end of next year and marking a significant step toward relieving commuter headaches.
“The first step is always significant,” Mayor Art Sanders said. “We can’t run without taking these first few steps. I don’t think there’s anybody that comes into Queen Creek and doesn’t use this intersection.”
So many people use the intersection at Power and Chandler Heights roads, which had a four-way stop sign, that interim public works director Don Noble said that during his morning commute he often sees cars backed up a mile to Sossaman Road.
Growing Queen Creek’s traffic issues have been called the most challenging in Maricopa County. Town officials say that’s because 75 percent of town residents commute to jobs outside of the community and an even larger number pass through the town on their way to and from Pinal County. Between 2001 and 2004 the number of cars on Queen Creek roads tripled, according to the Maricopa County Department of Transportation.
“The level of traffic at that intersection has increased dramatically in the past several years,” Noble said. “When you have a four-way stop everyone is going to have to stop. With a green light you can get 20, 30, 40 vehicles through the intersection. If you time it right, you can platoon cars and minimize the impacts of the traffic. You’ll still have traffic but this will keep it moving.”
The signal cost $267,000 and took seven months from design to installation.
Planned locations for additional signals are at Queen Creek and Sossaman roads; Hawes and Crismon roads; Ocotillo Road at Signal Butte and Crismon roads; and Chandler Heights at Sossaman and Hawes roads. Town officials also anticipate installing 10 signals as part of the Ellsworth Loop Road project during 2007.
On Wednesday, town officials dedicated the new signal — and watched as the intersection had its first red-light runner.
“We spend a lot of money on a lot of things but traffic has to do with quality of life,” Sanders said. “We want to keep working on the traffic issue and get more done sooner rather than later.”
Jennifer Vicsik, who works at Rich Aroma Coffee Co. on the southwest corner of the intersection, said she has heard customers complain about the back-up.
“It’ll (the traffic signal) help but it won’t solve the problem completely,” she said. “It will give some relief.”
Paul Calabrese, who commutes to north Scottsdale, said traffic is a regional problem and thinks the town is moving in the right direction with the signals.
“With the infrastructure that’s in place right now, they’re doing the best they can do,” he said. “Traffic is a problem but Queen Creek gets a bad rap for all of the surrounding stuff.” Queen Creek has temporary signals at Ellsworth and Ocotillo roads and a portable signal at Queen Creek and Ellsworth roads. In October, local developers donated two additional temporary traffic signals.