- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 25, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona Department of Transportation says it would be expensive to improve Interstate 17 in mountainous terrain where serious accidents often block traffic for hours and where potential alternative routes are few and far apart.

ADOT spokesman Ryan Harding said at a minimum, improving I-17 from Black Canyon City to Sunset Point would cost $125 million, KNXV-TV reports (http://bit.ly/2f4KDHt).

“Studies, designs.each of those phases costs millions of dollars,” Harding said.

That stretch of highway is particularly susceptible to problems. When crashes occur, both directions of travel slow to a near-stop.

But it isn’t just crashes. Heavy holiday traffic when people head to Flagstaff and other high country destinations for Memorial Day and Labor Day often causes major delays.

Harding said the most obvious solution to congestion, both after crashes and during peak-travel days, would be widening the road with additional lanes, but that currently isn’t feasible.

“Adding lanes, of course, at that point the elevation rises pretty rapidly as you’re going uphill, so that’s challenging too,” he said.

For now, Harding said ADOT will continue studying the interstate for possible solutions.

His comments come days after a massive 24-car pileup crash caused an hours-long backup around Black Canyon City on Sunday.

Steve Elliott, another ADOT spokesman, said improving the stretch of highway from Black Canyon City to Sunset Point still is a priority for the department.

He added that speed and driver inattention “are almost always the cause if initial and secondary crashes that occur in that stretch and lead to closures and long backups.”

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Information from: KNXV-TV, http://www.abc15.com

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