Originally Published: October 11, 2008 10:11 a.m.
PRESCOTT - For employees of the Enterprise auto rental office on East Gurley Street, the front desk has become a "front line" of sorts.
Since early this year, Enterprise and a handful of other nearby business have dealt with effects of one of the community's largest construction projects to date: the $23.6 million overhaul of the intersection of highways 69 and 89.
Manning the front desk during Friday afternoon's rush hour, Edward Barros, a management trainee for Enterprise, said the construction work has not been particularly easy to work around.
He pointed, for instance, to the elimination several months ago of the center turning lane on a portion of Gurley Street.
"We've seen several accidents right out here," said Barros, explaining that vehicles waiting for left turns can bring traffic to a standstill, sometimes causing crashes.
"It's not easy - that's all I can say," Barros said. "Hopefully, (the project) speeds up,"
Officials with the Arizona Department of Transportation say that is exactly what they are trying to accomplish.
ADOT resident engineer Andy Roth reported this week that the department is hoping the project would wrap up by the scheduled completion in fall 2009, or even slightly ahead of schedule.
But before that can happen, crews will move into what could be the project's most difficult phase.
By the end of October, Roth expects the work to move into the third phase, which, among other things, will involve shifting southbound Highway 89 traffic onto the new Sheldon Street ramp currently under construction.
A temporary traffic signal that Roth expects to be in place by mid-November will cause further traffic changes.
While ADOT is still discussing the exact location of the temporary signal, Roth said it could end up on Highway 69, near the existing 69-to-89 northbound ramp.
The signal will allow for the control of traffic while crews are working on the new bridge that will replace the old overpass.
ADOT District Engineer Dallas Hammit pointed out that while crews are removing the old bridge and pouring the concrete on the deck of the new one, "We can't have traffic always going in there."
In addition, Roth said the interchange would function for a time without an overpass, so the signal is necessary to help control and direct the traffic.
Because of the numerous traffic changes, Roth said, "This is the (phase) that will inconvenience people the most. There is no doubt that there is going to be an impact to traffic."
Work also will occur on Overland Trail, which will further constrict traffic movements toward Government Canyon.
Roth expects the next phase of the project to take about eight months.
After that, crews will complete the new overpass, remove the temporary signal, and complete the construction on Highway 89 north and Highway 69 east.
Meanwhile, Roth and Public Information Officer Bill Williams are cautioning drivers against some of the risky moves that have led to accidents and traffic citations in the area, such as U-turns to get from southbound Highway 89 to Highway 69.
Instead, ADOT suggests that Highway 89 drivers use either Prescott Lakes Parkway to get to Highway 69, or continue on down Gurley Street to Rush Street to make right-hand turns to get to Sheldon, and back toward Highway 69.