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Trusted local news leader for Prescott, Arizona & surrounding communities since 1882
4:55 AM Thu, July 19th

Talk of the Town

By JACK WILSON

Special to the Courier

Population growth has increased dramatically in the quad-city area since the mid-1990s. Future population growth estimates show no let-up in this growth pattern. There is a price for that growth.

The Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization (CYMPO) hired Lima & Associates to do a regional transportation plan. The 2030 Traffic Analysis, presented in November 2005, determined that all major roads in the plan would receive an "F," or failing rating, in terms of Level Of Service (LOS). Prescott Councilman Bob Roecker, at the Prescott City Council Retreat in January 2006, called the plan "woefully inadequate." The city asked the consultants to look at options for improving _service.

Lima & Associates returned in March 2006 with two alternatives:

1) High capacity

2) Bypasses

The high-capacity alternative would add lanes to highways 69 and 89. This would require 14 lanes on Highway 69, seven in each direction and 10 lanes on Highway 89 (goodbye Granite Dells!). In the baseline plan, Highway 89 would be a four-lane divided highway through Granite Dells. This alternative will not be feasible because of voter reaction (can you spell "revolt"), cost, physical geography (blasting through Granite Dells), etc.

The bypasses alternative identifies a number of connectors including limited access roads (freeways). Without a new revenue source, neither the municipalities nor the county have the money for right-of-way _acquisition.

Fourteen-lane and 10-lane highways are appropriate for Los Angeles but would change the character of this area forever. We need to challenge our traffic consultants and our elected officials to come up with a smarter plan, one that meets our transit needs and respects the rural nature and beauty of our community.

The consultants noted that this high capacity (14- and 10-lane highways) is necessary only during commuter hours. Given that, let us look at alternates:

1) Limit Highway 69 to a maximum of eight lanes. Replace the extra six lanes Lima & Associates recommended for commuters with a mass transit system:

_ Examine various mass transit options under this alternative such as vans, buses and light rail, to determine which could solve the commuter capacity problem. This might include the use of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes to help solve the commuter problem.

_ Once we find a mass-transit method that works, compare the cost of building the additional six lanes with the cost of a mass-transit system. The savings from not building the additional six lanes probably would go a long way toward the cost of a transit system.

2) As above with Highway 69, run scenarios based on six lanes for Highway 89, rather than the 10 that Lima & Associates proposed, assuming mass transit would handle the extra four-lane commuter volume.

We have a pressing need for mass transit within the CYMPO area. We need to evaluate all of the options for meeting our transit needs while preserving our quality of life.

The root cause of the traffic problems we face today is rapid population growth in a sprawl. The City of Prescott finally faced up to the underlying problem at its January 2006 City Council Retreat. It identified a growth management plan as a top priority. The City of Prescott intends to budget $750,000 to develop a City of Prescott Growth Management Strategy. On April 8, Cindy Barks reported in the Daily Courier:

"The next step, said City Manager Steve Norwood, is to get a growth-management expert on board to compile the scope and objectives of the project. Based on that information, the city then would look for a consulting firm to oversee the planning effort. Norwood emphasized that money for the extensive project currently is not in the city's budget. He anticipates taking the issue to the council during upcoming budget discussions in the _spring."

The City of Prescott deserves congratulations for taking the first step to control sprawl development and look at transit needs.

The other three municipalities in the quad-city area and the county should participate in this effort. Unless it happens regionally it will fail, and that is not acceptable.

(Jack Wilson is a Prescott resident and a member of the Steering Committee of Citizens for Reasonable Growth, and has been active in local quality-of-life issues.)