Traffic, Emissions Reduced As Arizonans Stay Home

Arizonans staying home amid the pandemic are making a measurable impact on road congestion and air quality. Weekday vehicle traffic volume is down by a third since early March, according to the Maricopa Association of Governments.

Average weekday traffic volume on Valley roads has declined since early March. (Photo courtesy Maricopa Association of Governments)

More Valley workers are telecommuting than ever before, and if some workers continue to do their jobs from home after social distancing orders are lifted, Eric Anderson, executive director of the Maricopa Association of Governments, is optimistic that could create long-term benefits.

“Even a 5% reduction in travel, if people are going to be telecommuting more in the future, could have a big, dramatic impact on how our future transportation system performs,” Anderson said.

Data from analytics company INRIX shows Valley travel speeds are up and travel delays are down. And with fewer cars on the road, satellite measurements show nitrogen dioxide in Phoenix’s atmosphere is more than 10% lower than at the same time last year.

To talk more about this is Eric Anderson, executive director of MAG.

Comparing the same period of March 2019 to March 2020, findings show a reduction of 10.5% in nitrogen dioxide emissions. (Photo courtesy Maricopa Association of Governments)

Lane Change: Old Road Recycled to Build New Stretch of I-10

PICACHO, Ariz. – About 80 million tons of asphalt are recycled every year throughout the U.S., but the Arizona Department of Transportation is using old pavement from Interstate 10 to build new eastbound lanes near this unincorporated community. In the process, an ADOT spokesman says the department is saving money and time, and decreasing its environmental impact.

Usually during construction, ADOT moves materials over a mile away from the construction site, but on this project, material from a torn-up 4-mile stretch of highway from Eloy to Picacho was moved only 200 yards offsite. ADOT uses pointed cylinders and other tools to break up the old asphalt, concrete and dirt, then mixes it together for use as a foundation for the new lanes.

Spokesman Tom Herrmann said ADOT is using the old material for the new eastbound lanes “to create a base so that we can pave on there. We’re saving time. We’re saving money, and we’re not adding any materials to any landfills. It’s been very important for us to preserve the beauty that is Arizona.”

The department also is recycling the 30,000 feet of guard rails from the Picacho site and reusing the rails that are in good condition on other projects around the state.

This stretch of Interstate 10 was built in the mid-1960s.

“This is really an unusual case,” Hermann said. “We’re out here in the middle of the desert in central Arizona. We have an opportunity here to do something special.”

Kamil Kaloush, a professor at Arizona State’s School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, said recycled materials can be effective.

“If it is designed correctly and added at the proper percentage, it will be just as good as the version material or the new construction,” Kaloush said.

Recycling materials onsite not only saves money and time, it helps the environment, he said.

“Saving in money, saving in energy, cost, fuel and, of course, the impact on the environment, the CO₂ emissions, the global warming and climate change and everything else,” Kaloush said.

ADOT replaced the westbound lanes last year. Construction on the eastbound lanes is expected to wrap up in the fall.

– Video by Bayne Froney/Cronkite News