Four-way stop signs are no match for Gilbert’s growing amount of traffic. So police officers fill in at intersections in limbo — those that warrant a full traffic light but don’t yet have one.
There are about 11 such intersections in town, town staff say.
The town is working to staff those and other busy intersections with officers, Town Manager George Pettit said, especially at roads near schools with the academic year beginning again.
Gilbert police officers volunteer for traffic duty or the town contracts for off-duty officers from other agencies.
The town has spent almost $50,000 on contract officers so far, and could spend almost $800,000 by the end of the fiscal year.
Gilbert Lt. Joe Ruet said he has to wear two pairs of socks and thick boots to keep the pavement from burning his feet during long shifts at Higley and Pecos roads.
A bottle of ice inside his bulletproof vest keeps him from overheating when there’s no time for water breaks.
"If I walk away from the intersection just long enough to get a bottle of water, by the time I get back, there are already cars backed up," Ruet said.
Scott Ashcroft, a builder who commutes from Queen Creek, said traffic flows more smoothly with the officers’ help.
"It’s a lot better than stop signs," he said.
Amy Sparrow said she drives often from her Chandler home office to retail areas in Gilbert for lunch.
She’s noticed smoother traffic as well, especially in construction areas.
"I appreciate the people standing out there in the hot sun," she said. "It must be a difficult job for them."
Drivers using cell phones can make directing traffic difficult. Ruet said he’s had a couple near misses with unfocused drivers.
"People should apply their undivided attention to driving," he said.
Still, making 12 directions of constant traffic flow efficiently can be rewarding for those willing to brave the heat and fill in until Gilbert gets its traffic lights.
"It’s a point of pride to be an efficient traffic directing machine," Ruet said.
For up-to-date traffic information in Gilbert, visit www.ci.gilbert.az.us/traffic/restrictions.cfm