Arizona board awards contract to combat wrong-way driving

Posted at 8:43 AM, Jul 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-28 21:07:40-04

The Arizona State Transportation Board has chosen a company to work on a system to reduce the risk of wrong-way drivers after Gov. Doug Ducey called for state agencies to combat the deadly issue.

At a Friday meeting, the board recommended awarding the contract to Contractors West, Inc. with a conditional award to Roadway Electric, Inc.

The board's decision follows its approval last month of a $3.7 million plan to construct a thermal-detection system that officials say will curb the problem through early warning methods.

The Arizona Department of Transportation said the project will span along a 15-mile stretch of Interstate 17. According to the department, the system using thermal camera technology will be the first of its kind across the United States.

"I want those cameras implemented as quickly as possible, and expanded to as many areas as possible where they may make a difference and save a life," Ducey said in a statement in June following a fatal wrong-way crash on a Phoenix-area freeway. That incident was the third wrong-way accident in a span of two weeks, two of them involving fatalities.

Doug Ninttzel with ADOT says time is of the essence in Arizona for this new technology.

"In our testing of the system we've been able to detect a vehicle being turned and driving on the wrong way on that ramp. That's why we feel good about this," Nintzel said. 

Take a look at the map below to see every media-reported wrong-way crash in the Valley so far in 2017. 

The opportunity to offer proposals for the project opened last month and garnered three bidders. Department officials said the chosen company will install the system beginning early next month and is expected to have the work completed by the year's end.

The Wrong Way Driving Detection Pilot Project will use thermal-detection cameras to sense wrong-way vehicles and alert those drivers and others on the freeway with warning signs and advisories. The system will also work to notify authorities and highway patrol of incidents as they occur.

Spokesman Steve Elliott said Thursday that officials have accelerated the project by pre-ordering materials including cameras, poles and fiber-optic cable rather than wait for the chosen contractor to secure those items.

The Department of Public Safety said there have been 956 incidents involving wrong-way drivers reported so far in 2017.

Most reported incidents don't result in arrests or collisions because those motorists correct themselves, said Alberto Gutier, director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.


"It really boils down to notification and early word," Elliott said. Along with notifying everyone on the road, the system's assistance with earlier word will allow law enforcement to respond to wrong-way driving cases even faster than it already does, Elliott said.