PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Nobody likes being stuck in traffic, but it happens a lot on Interstate 17 between Phoenix and Flagstaff.
"I think the longest is about 4 hours," said Phoenix motorist Justin Thompson. "I've been in traffic for an hour and at a standstill about 3 hours."
Whether it's an accident, brush fire, or medical emergency, the stretch of freeway from Anthem to Sunset Point is notorious for turning into a parking lot, especially on holidays and long weekends. But the long waits on I-17 may be coming to an end.
The Arizona Department of Transportation is moving forward with plans to expand a 23-mile stretch of freeway from Anthem to Sunset Point. ADOT spokesperson Laura Douglas said the $350 million project calls for widening 15 miles of freeway and installing 8 miles of flex lanes, which would open up whenever there's a traffic crunch.
The money will go into the planned flex-lane system plus widening the freeway to three lanes for 15 miles from Anthem to Black Canyon City.
"If there's an incident such as a crash or a storm, or other unforeseen incident, said Douglas. "We can open up those flex lanes through a gate system and through overhead message boards to let them know the flex lanes are open, depending on the greatest need and which direction needs to move that traffic."
Flex lanes are currently being used in California, Florida, and Texas.
Motorists like the idea of the additional lanes but aren't thrilled at the thought of what construction will do to traffic in the years ahead. Douglas said everything possible would be done to minimize the inconvenience to motorists, with most construction to be scheduled overnight, during the week, and not on the weekend.
"Once it's done, it's going to be awesome," said Phoenix motorist Alex Campas. "Hopefully, that will alleviate a lot of the traffic that people hate to go up North because of it."
The project has been in development since 2019. "Construction on the I-17 flex-lane project is expected to start in 2022 and take about three years to complete," said Douglas.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that construction is expected to start in 2022.