The History of The I-10


Zachar Law Firm is involved in several cases that regard accidents on Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson.  In the course of these cases, we have learned some very disturbing facts. 

Interstate 10 was built and opened between these two major cities in 1967.   At that time, there were two lanes of travel in each direction, the speed limit was 55 mph and average daily traffic (ADT) was 6500 vehicles per day.   The Phoenix population was approximately 439,170; Tucson was 262,933.  When opened, ADOT projected that in 30 years, ADT would be approximately 16,500. 

Then, the Arizona population exploded.   Unfortunately, ADOT did not respond. 

In 1997, ADT had grown to 38,000 (more than double ADOT's projection).    Did the Interstate 10 keep up?  Hardly.  Still just two lanes in each direction and, despite such an alarming amount of traffic, Arizona increased the speed limit to 75 mph in December 1995.  (In 2004, some legislators actually wanted to increase it to 80 mph, despite that ADT by that time was 50,000).   By this time, the Phoenix population was nearly 2.8 million, and Tucson 803,618. 

In 1999, due to an alarming number of cross-median collisions in the Phoenix area, the State decided to install cable barriers on all urban freeways in Phoenix and Tucson.  From the decision to completion, it took approximately nine months to install 140 miles of cable barriers.  The effectiveness of these barriers has almost universally resolved cross-median crashes in these metropolitan areas.  In fact, across the United States, in all states that have installed barriers on its freeways and highways, median barriers have proved to be 95%+ effective. 

Let's get back to the I-10. 

Over the years, there have been recorded thousands of accidents on I-10.  Included in these have been an alarming number of crossover crashes, involving a significant number of fatalities.  Has ADOT responded?  Hardly. 

The vast majority of I-10 remains unprotected by median barriers.  The State's primary justification is that the flat dirt medians are wide enough that barriers are not needed.  (in many places, the medians are 80 feet wide.  However, keep in mind that at 75 mph, a vehicle is traveling 110 feet/second.). For an errant vehicle, the amount of time to traverse a flat, dirt median can be less than one second.   The State has no response to this argument.  Yet to date, still no barriers exist. 

Remarkably, in 2001, ADOT held talks with the Gila River tribe regarding the issue of improvements to the I-10.  (The I-10 runs across Gila River tribal land--Arizona has a right of way per agreement.).  At the meetings, ADOT told the tribal officials that it knew that "I-10 had reached its maximum traffic capacity" and that I-10 "needed a median barrier".  Despite these meetings, with no objection from he tribe, to date, the State has done nothing.  The majority of I-10 remains unprotected by barriers to this day.  Accidents continue, and crossover crashes are frequent.  Sadly, travelers of the I-10 are continuing to die.

3 hurt in crossover crash on I-10
6 killed on Interstate 10 after passenger bus rolls over
Woman critical after I-10 crash in Phoenix

Most recently, a Maricopa County jury awarded a family $7.8 million dollars for the deaths of their 50 year old husband/father and 6 year old daughter/sister that occurred in a 2007 crossover collision.   Members of the jury were astounded that ADOT has seemingly ignored the dangers on Interstate 10 over the years. 

However, still to this day, the great majority of I-10 remains without a barrier.

Arizona law provides: 

When will our State officials wake up?  How many people have to be injured or killed for the State to decide to protect the citizens and visitors in Arizona?  How long will it take, and, at what cost to families in Arizona?