Desert Hills Area Transportation Study
Thank you for your interest in MCDOT’s Desert Hills Area Transportation Study.
The purpose of the Desert Hills Area Transportation Study (ATS) is to evaluate the existing and future roadway systems to determine gaps in connectivity for roadway users. Those gaps can lead to access issues to and from properties and services. Recent emergency events in the area have resulted in concerns by residents on accessibility options in the Desert Hills area.
The following key project issues and challenges have been identified:
- Identification of connectivity gaps in the roadway network;
- Right-of-way and physical constraints;
- Roadway deficiencies such as pavement, shoulders, and drainage infrastructure; and
- Steep topographic conditions limiting potential connectivity.
- Evaluate and compare existing and projected roadway systems to determine future roadway connectivity needs within the study area.
- This includes evaluation of MCDOT maintained and non-MCDOT maintained roadways on section lines and mid-section line alignments.
- Evaluate physical opportunities/constraints.
- Avoid or minimize impact(s) to residents quality of life
- The duration of the study is anticipated to occur over a 12-month period, which began in February 2021 and is scheduled to be completed by February 2022.
- The study just completed the existing and future condition analyses phase with forthcoming future transportation network recommendations and final report.
- The purpose of the existing and future conditions analysis is to evaluate existing and future conditions within the study area, including review of opportunities and constraints that could help identify roadway segments that may or may not be suitable for future roadway improvements.
For Frequently Asked Questions regarding this study, click here Version OptionsDesert Hills Area Transportation StudyHeadline.
For a Fact Sheet regarding this study, click here Version OptionsDesert Hills Area Transportation StudyHeadline.
Tell us what you think
We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts about the Desert Hills Area Transportation Study. Visit mcdot.me/DesertHillsSurvey or scan the adjacent QR code to fill out a brief survey and help us get a better understanding of the roadway needs in the Desert Hills study area.
If you would like to speak with someone directly regarding this area transportation study, please contact Jessica Brinton, Project Manager, by phone at (602) 506-4178 or by email at Jessica.Brinton@maricopa.gov.
Existing Conditions Overview
The study area is generally bounded by Desert Hills Drive to the north, 35th Avenue to the west, Dove Valley Road to the south, and 28th Street to the east as shown in the map, and includes approximately 18 square miles of unincorporated land in northern Maricopa County. The study area is adjacent to the City of Phoenix Municipal Limits to the south, the Town of Cave Creek Municipal Limits to the east, and the suburban master planned community of Anthem to the north.
The area is predominantly rural in nature with large lot single family residential nestled between surrounding mountains and buttes. Additional areas of influence for the study area include Carefree Highway from 7th Avenue west to I-17 and Gavilan Peak Parkway from Carefree Highway north to the Desert Hills Drive alignment.
The majority of the land is under private ownership. Arizona State Land Department (ASLD) ownership and management is clustered in the central and eastern portions of the study area. A singular Bureau of Land Management (BLM) parcel exists adjacent to the Apache Wash just south of Carlise Road in close proximity to the eastern boundary of the study area near the Town of Cave Creek.
The majority of the study area is comprised of low-density single family residential land uses, followed by vacant land that has yet to be developed, particularly in the south and west portions of the study area. Small clusters of commercial land uses exist along 15th Avenue, 7th Avenue, and Carefree Highway. The largest public employment use is Desert Mountain Middle School, which is part of the Deer Valley Unified School District, located on 7th Avenue south of Cloud Road.
It is anticipated that the remaining vacant land will develop as semi-rural, low density single family residential with mixed uses along the Carefree Highway corridor, the far southeast corner of the study area between Cloud Road and Carefree Highway, and the far west portion of the study area in close proximity to Gavilan Peak Parkway and I-17.
Large employers, shopping centers, and other places of interest generate trips for the exchange of goods and services. These destinations are considered transportation trip generators and require regional access. Major transportation trip generators are labeled in the map. The ten largest employers in the study area are shown in the table.
This inventory of existing employers only considers businesses within the study area, although, employers outside of the study area will be considered as potential roadway improvements are developed. As illustrated in the map, clusters of employment outside of the study area are located along Carefree Highway just east of I-17 and within the Anthem community.
A total of 17,771 people live in 6,041 households within the study area. The maps below show the population density and the household density.
The highest concentration of both people and households are similar for the study area. The overall population density in the study area is lower than other portions of the County given the larger residential lots and amount of vacant land. The overall population density in the study area is lower than other portions of the County given the larger residential lots and amount of vacant land. This could correlate to fewer trips than experienced in other areas of the County, which could result in smaller roads able to accommodate the number of trips generated to and from the study area.
The lower population density and magnitude of employment coupled with the higher than average seasonal vacancy could limit the need for adding capacity of roadways and could likely result in targeted connections near areas of employment and clusters of households.
Reviewing future population and employment provides insight on changes in future travel demand and informs solutions. The graph shows the projected increase in population, households, and employment within the study area between 2020 and 2040, the planning horizon for this study.
With the majority of the study area being predominantly residential, employment is expected to stay relatively the same from 2020-2040 with a greater concentration around the intersection of Carefree Highway and 7th Street, as shown in the maps. Population density is expected to grow conservatively as remaining vacant land in the southern portions of the study area become developed by 2040. The large activity center at Carefree Highway and I-17 is expected to develop further with greater concentrations of employment and residential density by 2040.
Transportation Network Overview
MCDOT owns and maintains approximately 66.25 centerline miles of arterial and collector roadways within the study area as illustrated in the map.
All MCDOT roads in the study area are paved based on the Road Information Tool, with the exception of a small quarter-mile segment of Dove Valley Road between 12th Street and 14th Street, as shown in the map. All other roads not maintained by MCDOT are predominately unpaved and ungraded.
Due to the prominence of the large lot, low density rural character of the study area, the majority of the roadways in study area do not have sidewalks, as is standard for rural communities. The only exception is Cloud Road from 35th Avenue to Skunk Creek and select segments of sidewalks at the intersections of Carefree Highway with 7th Street, 16th Street and 24th Street. As a result, many multimodal travel users resort to using the shoulders as their preferred throughfare space.
There is also a limited number of striped crosswalks in the study area. The only crosswalks are along Carefree Highway at 7th Avenue, 7th Street, 16th Street, and 24th Street; and one other mid-block crosswalk on 7th Street about 1,500 feet south of Cloud Road which serves Stepping Stones Academy.
The study area has almost no bicycle infrastructure apart from Carefree Highway which has designation as a regional Bike Route. No other interior roadways in the study area contain bike facilities which again is typical of low density, large lot residential communities. Surrounding arterial roadways to the northwest in Anthem and southwest of the study area have painted bike lanes inclusive of Gavilan Peak Parkway, Dove Valley Road, 27th Drive south of Carefree Highway, and North Valley Parkway. As a result, bicyclists tend to utilize the shoulders as their preferred throughfare space within the study area.
The Maricopa Trail traverses the Town of Cave Creek approximately 1.5 miles to the north of the study area before following Skunk Creek headed south. Upon reaching the northern boundary of the study area along the Desert Hills Drive alignment the trail juts west and then slightly north to connect to the community of Anthem before continuing further west beyond I-17. Part of the larger regional trail system, the Maricopa Trail provides regional recreational connectivity to the northern part of the study area. In addition, both Cave Creek Regional Park and the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve have their own respective trail systems that provide accessibility from the edges of the study area. There is a formal trailhead to access the Maricopa Trail at 11th Avenue and Desert Hills Drive.
Crash data was collected to assess trends, patterns, predominant crash types, and high crash locations. The crash data collected for this study was for a five-year period, from January 2015 to December 2019. The crash data was obtained from the ADOT Safety Data Mart. The map depicts crashes in the study area within the analysis period.
During the five-year analysis period, a total of 311 crashes occurred, fairly dispersed throughout the study area. The area with the highest concentration of crashes includes Carefree Highway between 16th Street and 7th Avenue and on 27th Avenue between Cloud Road and Desert Hills Drive.
The pie chart shows the percentage of crashes that occurred during the five-year study period by injury severity.