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Centerline rumble strips could reduce US 93 crashes

US 93
Posted at 7:53 PM, Jun 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-03 15:47:33-04

WICKENBURG, AZ — The Arizona State Transportation Board is expected to vote later this month on safety improvements to US 93 between Wickenburg and Kingman, including widening some of the highway to four lanes and installing centerline rumble strips on most of the two-lane section.

Last month, the ABC15 Investigators showed how crashes have been increasing for years, and fatalities spiked in 2020 on US 93 from Wickenburg to Wikieup.

Now we are learning, the Arizona State Transportation Board is about to make a final decision on its Five-Year Transportation Facilities Construction Program including proposed improvements to US 93.

Arizonans wishing to comment about transportation funding priorities can attend a virtual public hearing Thursday or send written comments until 5 p.m. Thursday.

Drivers on US 93 witnessed another head-on crash about 25 miles from Wickenburg Tuesday. According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, a white pickup drifted across the center line and hit a tractor-trailer traveling the opposite direction. A fire erupted and the pickup's driver died.

"My wife saw the flames," Ron Madrid said. The couple was driving back from a trip to Las Vegas. Ron's wife, Susie, refuses to drive the highway at night because it's so dark.

"It was very sad," traveler Tony Buckley said. He captured video of a small explosion as they approached the wreck.

Tuesday's crash at mile marker 169 was the third recent fatal collision on a 20-mile stretch of US 93 that's just two lanes wide.

On May 20, there was an early morning fatal crash at mile marker 179.

Just over a month ago, on April 30, two people died in a fiery crash that involved a DPS trooper near mile marker 174.

"This is a very dangerous highway because it's so narrow, especially with those big trucks," Tony Buckley said.

According to the tentative Five-Year Transportation Facilities Construction Program, the Arizona Department of Transportation proposes adding centerline rumble strips from milepost 160 to 181, a 21-mile stretch where we've seen the recent fatal crashes.

"If somebody is going to cross over, and maybe they're drowsy or something like that, they [rumble strips] tend to make a large amount of noise and vibration," said ADOT spokesman Doug Nick. "That will alert the driver that they need to get back in their lane."

The ABC15 Investigators learned the strips are highly effective.

According to a National Cooperative Highway Research Program report, centerline rumble strips can reduce head-on and opposite direction sideswipe collisions by 38 to 50% in rural areas.

A smaller Arizona-based study showed a 61% decrease in fatal and serious injury accidents in a three-year period after adding rumble strips on two-lane highways north of Flagstaff.

"When you have a lot of people coming from the city, going to another city, you've got that boredom that sets in," said Arizona driver Emily Sandbak. "I think a rumble strip is probably a good idea."

Some drivers said those rumble strips only go so far with all the trucks and other traffic. What they say needs to happen is for US 93 to be a four-lane divided highway all the way from Wickenburg to Kingman.

An ADOT spokesman said they are limited by funding. The tentative five-year transportation plan only includes widening five miles of US 93 in the Wickenburg area, which is estimated to cost nearly $55 million.

The 21 miles of centerline rumble strips proposed would cost about $361,000, according to ADOT.

"Every dollar that we have has to be reviewed in terms of a statewide use," Nick said. "There are needs on 93. There are needs in southwestern Arizona, in the urban areas, on the Navajo reservation.

Meantime, ADOT officials urge drivers to exercise patience, obey the speed limit, and use caution when passing.

Got a news tip? Email ABC15 Investigator Melissa Blasius at Melissa.Blasius@abc15.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.