MAG: Suspicious item that closed Phoenix freeways turned out to be traffic counter

PHOENIX (AP/FOX 10) - An Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman says several Phoenix freeways have reopened after being closed for over an hour during the Wednesday morning commute while authorities checked a suspicious item.

According to DPS spokesman Bart Graves, a suspicious package was found alongside a traffic pole near I-10 and 16th street.

Troopers closed the freeway in both directions and a bomb squad was brought in. The item was determined to not be a threat and the freeways were all reopened.

>>VIDEO from the scene: Police activity closes 3 freeways

According to a statement released by the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), the suspicious device at the center of this incident was a traffic counting equipment that was placed by a contractor working for MAG. The counter collects information about traffic volumes, and the contractor had secured all appropriate permits and had placed the counter Tuesday morning.

"We are looking at the chain of events to determine how the misunderstanding may have occurred. All of the agencies involved are committed to ensuring this regrettable situation is never repeated. We apologize to all of the motorists who were inconvenienced by the freeway closures," said MAG Executive Director Eric Anderson.

The irony that MAG, a county agency tasked with developing better regional transportation, may have played an unintentional role in this incident, isn't lost on many.

"Shocking. Very shocking," said Wes Heel. "Must have been pretty big, because they have the whole freeway shut down, all the way to the Deck Park Tunnel."

While it was a major hassle for commuters, but one former ATF bomb expert says this was absolutely the right move, in this situation.

"Even though it was an inconvenience to the commute, this is something that shouldn't be ignored," said Anthony May. "This was nothing. The next time, it could be an actual device. A threat to the public."

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.