Construction on 8th Avenue roundabout set to begin November 4

Project on U.S. Highway 191 south of Safford to begin on the same day

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Construction on a roundabout for the “Y” intersection of 8th Avenue, Safford/Bryce Road, and Airport Road is scheduled to begin Nov. 4. and could last until May. 

By Jon Johnson

GRAHAM COUNTY – Construction on a long-anticipated, large roundabout at the “Y” intersection of 8th Avenue, Safford/Bryce Road, and Airport Road is scheduled to begin Monday, Nov. 4 and last 180 working days, which means it could continue into May. 

The $2.1 million project is being administered by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), and Hatch Construction out of Taylor, Arizona, won the construction bid.

Safford District Engineer Bill Harmon said there will be partial delays during construction with detours within the project site to get people around. Harmon added that all projects done by ADOT are safety projects and the roundabout is no exception. 

“It takes an intersection with an awkward movement and sight distance and it mitigates speed and makes it more comfortable for the drivers to come together and negotiate those turns, especially for the big trucks, (so) they don’t have to make difficult, sharp turns anymore,” Harmon said. 

Graham County Manager Dustin Welker has described the 8th Avenue roundabout as being a bigger version of the one Thatcher installed in Daley Estates to better accommodate large truck traffic bound for Freeport McMoRan Inc.’s Safford Operations mine.

Contributed Graphic of 8th Avenue Roundabout/Courtesy ADOT

The Daley Estates roundabout is constructed at the intersection of Golf Course Road, Reay Lane, Hoopes Avenue, and Robinson Avenue. While both that intersection and the 8th Avenue intersection have an odd number of connecting roads, Thatcher is also set to construct its first roundabout on a regular, four corner intersection as part of its $2.4 million Church Street renewal project. That roundabout, which is being administered by the Town of Thatcher and will utilize Hatch Construction as well, will go in at the intersection of Church Street and Third Avenue to service traffic to Thatcher High School.  

Every year, more than 7,000 people are killed and nearly 1 million are injured in intersection-related crashes, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHA). Most of the deaths and injuries are due to right-angle crashes at intersections with stoplights and stop signs. Roundabouts reduce that statistic because any collision is more likely to be a low-speed, same-direction glancing blow because of the curvature and the resulting lower traffic speeds (usually between 15-25 mph) in a roundabout. Additionally, conflict points (where two vehicles could collide) are reduced from 32 conflict points with a traditional, four-legged intersection to just eight in an equivalent roundabout.

The FHA also reports roundabouts improve safety for not just motor vehicles but for pedestrians and bicyclists as well.

U.S. Highway 191 Drainage Project

ADOT is also scheduled to begin work on a drainage project on U.S. Highway 191 roughly six miles south of Safford on Nov. 4. That project is expected to extend into early spring 2020. 

During the work, the highway will be restricted by a single lane in alternating directions with traffic being handled by a temporary traffic signal near Ocotilla Street, which is between State Route 366 (Swift Trail) and Roper Lake State Park. 

Motorists should expect delays of five minutes or more, especially during peak traffic hours, according to ADOT.  

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