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As new casino is built, Chandler officials look to ensure commuters are safe

High speeds, casino construction raising safety concerns along Hunt Highway
Posted at 4:30 AM, Aug 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-30 08:15:26-04

CHANDLER, AZ — It is a stretch of East Valley road where too many drivers are pushing the speed limit and taking risks.

Chandler city officials tell ABC15 that Hunt Highway between Cooper Road and Val Vista Drive is set to be studied due to the higher speeds they have seen. They hope to find ways to advance safety for commuters, including pedestrians and cyclists.

However, a casino is under construction there and it is dealing the community a wild card.

Every morning, Aimee Poole is on the move.

"I usually take my dog out for about a mile and then I'll drop her back off at the house," she explained. "And then, I head back out and just kind of last however long I can."

Somehow, ABC15 was able to catch up to her and get Poole to stop that step count for just a moment.

"It's a little intimidating and there's a lot going on," Poole said about the casino construction near Hunt Highway and Gilbert Road. Poole said she has changed her morning walking and running route since the latest Gila River Indian Community Casino began work.

"I did feel like, you know, something in my gut was telling me... it might be a good idea just to cut that short," Poole said. "I mean, why? You can get your mileage elsewhere. Why take the risk?"

She does not believe casinos are a bad thing and she is thinking positively about the development and job opportunities for her neighbors.

"What we do is we look at any impacts that we can mitigate," said Dana Alvidrez.

She is the city of Chandler's Transportation Engineer. Alvidrez is not using luck to determine what traffic may look like in the area once the casino starts taking in players. She explained, the Gila River Indian Community did a study with some of their existing casinos for them.

"They looked at two of the most similar casinos that they have currently operating... did some traffic counts there... did some analysis there as far as kind of the variable that we landed on was the number of gaming positions," Alvidrez described. "So, we looked at it from there to try to anticipate the number of trips that are going to be generated by a new development. Then, once we have that information - we take that and... the development team assigns it to the roadway networks, so we can see what the impacts to the roadway network will be."

One of the improvements her team knows will be coming is removing the four-way stop at Hunt Highway and Gilbert Road. They will add in a traffic signal instead.

Poole said she is all in on the idea.

"That would give me... definitely a better sense of safety and knowing that the drivers are a little more aware of what's going on at that intersection because there's a lot of traffic," said Poole.

More improvements could be on the way, too. Chandler's Transportation Planning Manager Jason Crampton tells ABC15 the city council has approved a study to be done along Hunt Highway between Cooper Road and Val Vista Drive before plans for the casino were even announced.

"That certainly does add a challenge component to this study," said Crampton. "Once the casino comes, we do expect there to be somewhat of an uptick in traffic volume - but what does that do to traffic speeds? Does that added volume actually reduce speeds on its own? Or do we need to implement traffic calming to make this corridor safe?"

Crampton said they plan on beginning the study to look at bicycle and pedestrian safety in the fall and it will take about nine months to complete with a grant, making it possible.

They may not start bigger projects until they know for sure how the casino will impact traffic.