Some Pinal County residents say the 35 mph speed limit on much of Hunt Highway is putting lives at stake. But county officials say they’re making the road safer.
The largely two-lane route connecting Florence to the East Valley has a 35 mph speed limit most of the way, but Karen Christian, who lives in Solera at Johnson Ranch, said the speed limit is “ridiculous” and “frustrating.”
“Traffic along there is enough of a problem, slowing it down bottle-necks it more,” she said.
Christian said she gets scared coming home from her job late at night because when she follows the speed limit, she is tailgated by aggressive drivers. She said the county should consider increasing the limit to “a more reasonable” 40 or 45 mph and widen Hunt Highway.
“These are areas that were country roads at one time but, hello, it’s not the country anymore,” Christian said. “They call it a highway.”
Greg Stanley, county public works director, said as little as six months ago there were multiple speed limits along Hunt Highway, ranging from 25 to 50 mph. He said the county has been working to make speeds more consistent.
“In the unincorporated county portion of Hunt Highway, where there was not development and because the condition of the road, I set the speed at 40,” Stanley said. “Where there is development, we set it at 35.”
For now the road is 35 mph from the J-curve at Ellsworth Road to near the Magic Ranch subdivision where the limit is posted at 40 mph. Then, at the widest part of Hunt Highway, six lanes in front of Anthem at Merrill Ranch in Florence, the limit drops to 35 mph again. When the road reaches the two-lane stretch leading into downtown Florence, the limit increases to 40 mph.
“We had to slow the speed because of the condition of the road,” Stanley said.
County Supervisor Sandie Smith, D-Dist. 2, agrees the speed limit on the heavily traveled roadway needs to be reviewed. She said she’s received concerns from area residents.
“I think we should try to be consistent, and it’s definitely appropriate to study it,” Smith said.
Stanley oversees the county’s engineering department and sets speed limits based on the number of driveways along a road, its condition, number of traffic crashes, and even the types of vehicles and equipment entering or exiting the roadway.
The Tribune reported in March that crashes on Hunt Highway had increased by 660 percent since 2003.
Stanley said officials recognize safety is a problem and his department is currently in the design phase for widening Hunt Highway from the Maricopa County boundary to Thompson Road. Pending funding, the county could award a construction contract and begin work next year.
Stanley said they are designing the roadway for higher speeds, though it could be a couple of years before speed limits are increased.
Johnson Ranch resident Ryan Ferguson said the 35 mph speed limit is too slow.
“There were good intentions because there have been lots of accidents. There are too many vehicles. Too many vehicles are causing the accidents, not the speed,” he said.
Ferguson commutes to Chandler and says it takes him 90 minutes to get there by 8 a.m. He said Pinal County is “dancing around” the real problem of an inadequate road.
Christian said she could better abide by the 35 mph limit if the sheriff’s office stepped up patrols in the area to help stop tailgating.
“I get tailgated all the time,” Christian said. “I am so tired of it. I have to go 45 mph to get them to back off. It’s scary.”