Motorists urged to use caution through work zone
By Gualterio Casias
CLIFTON – Large sections of the sidewalks on one side of U.S. Highway 191 in South Clifton are gone and what remains of them are also being removed. There are orange and white vertical barriers directing traffic through two narrow lanes. The flow of traffic is slow but remains otherwise impeded.
Removal of the sidewalks involves a major Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) project to improve drainage and eliminate three large pools of water that remain on the road after heavy rain storms.
The project began in late August and is scheduled to run through late January. Work will reportedly include a section of the highway, known locally as Coronado Boulevard, near the Clifton Train Station where the largest pooling occurs.
Cost of the overall project was not immediately available from ADOT.
The South Clifton work runs about a half mile from milepost 136 to the Coronado Bridge. There are three particular spots where rainwater pools: in front of The Liquor Store, PJ’s Restaurant and the former Tyler’s Taste of Texas.
As vehicles pass through the pools they splash water onto vehicles traveling in the opposite direction and the water can cover the windshield of the opposite moving vehicles, at times temporarily blinding those drivers. The situation can become particularly hazardous when a vehicle with high clearance – a large pickup truck or an even larger vehicle such as a semi- tractor trailer – passes through a pool and splashes water on to a much smaller passenger vehicle.
The speed limit through South Clifton is 25 miles per hour. Smaller vehicles tend to slow down when passing through a pool, but the larger vehicles having higher clearance, do not slow up and even at only 25 mph create enough of a splash to create a visibility hazard for drivers of smaller vehicles.
A major factor is the amount of traffic that passes daily through Clifton. According to a recent ADOT vehicle count, about 6,000 vehicles pass through Clifton every day. Much of that is traffic related to the Freeport McMoran giant open pit copper mine at nearby Morenci. A great number of vehicles passing through Clifton include semis hauling cargo to and from the mine. There are also large utility trucks of contractors passing through Clifton. Additionally, there is a large number of mine employees who do not live in Morenci or Clifton but pass through Clifton traveling to and from work.
There is yet another factor in that U.S. 191 is the main thoroughfare through Clifton to reach Morenci. Clifton is located in the narrow San Francisco River and Chase Creek canyons. South Clifton is located in the San Francisco Canyon. Thus, the contractor performing the drainage improvement in South Clifton has to deal with a quite narrow working space.
Motorists are cautioned to be alert while driving through the construction zone. Also, look for updates on the project’s progress on this website.