An attempt to relieve a bottleneck on state Route 87 Friday ironically created an even worse traffic jam that left thousands of drivers stuck on the Beeline Highway for more than an hour.
Traffic backed up for miles on the northbound state Route 87 in the Fountain Hills area when maintenance crews tried to restore both lanes of traffic in a construction zone. As crews removed concrete barriers, they had to close the northbound lanes for short periods.
That created enormous backups as drivers headed north for the Labor Day weekend.
Once officials at the Arizona Department of Transportation realized the delays were so bad, they ordered crews to stop, agency spokesman Doug Nintzel said. That eased the problem somewhat, Nintzel said.
ADOT didn’t realize a contractor had narrowed the northbound lanes until Thursday afternoon. The agency asked the contractor to move the barriers starting Friday morning, but crews couldn’t get all the barriers out of the way fast enough.
“We simply ran out of time to take care of the restriction before the traffic started to build in the morning,” Nintzel said.
Dennis Alonso of Scottsdale got stuck in the jam just after noon while heading to Payson.
“It took us over two hours to travel five miles in 115-degree weather,” Alonso said just after getting past the construction area.
Drivers shouldn’t face the same problem when returning home later this weekend. Both southbound lanes are open.
But drivers will find delays for up to a year. ADOT is beginning to build a new interchange at the Bush Highway, and the work requires a section of the northbound Beeline to be restricted to one lane for the entire time, Nintzel said.