Proposed traffic changes at highway intersection leave council concerned

ADOT requires extra lanes at highways 69, 169 for planned Giant gas station

Dewey-Humboldt rancher Carole Wagner — pictured in 2010 on her property near Highway 69 — told town council members on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, that her son was in a near-fatal accident at the intersection that the council is now studying, in light of a proposal for a new gas station at that location. (Sue Tone/Tribune)

Dewey-Humboldt rancher Carole Wagner — pictured in 2010 on her property near Highway 69 — told town council members on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, that her son was in a near-fatal accident at the intersection that the council is now studying, in light of a proposal for a new gas station at that location. (Sue Tone/Tribune)

The developers who want to build a Giant gas station at the southeast corner of highways 69 and 169 in Dewey-Humboldt can do so as long as they meet the requirements of the Arizona Department of Transportation.

The department’s recommendation is based on a traffic study conducted by the developer’s engineer, WesBuild NM, LLC.

However, the Dewey-Humboldt Council members — at a study session Tuesday, Feb. 13 — discussed their concerns about those recommendations.

Council members, while stating their support of the planned gas station, were troubled by plans for how traffic will enter and exit the property and how vehicles will access Highway 69 from the gas station property.

Town Manager Tom Wilson said that while current commercial zoning at that location is compatible with a gas station, ADOT controls mitigating factors, like ingress, egress and traffic circulation.

Andy Roth, ADOT assistant district engineer for the Northwest District, explained to the council how traffic heading north on Highway 69 will have an extended right-turn lane, leading into the gas station.

To exit the property and gain access onto Highway 69, drivers would have to use Old Black Canyon Highway, which parallels Highway 69, and then make a left onto Highway 169 and maneuver into the right-turn-only lane to get to Highway 69.

There will be no left off Highway 69 into the gas station and no direct access back onto Highway 69 from that site, Roth said.

From Old Black Canyon Highway, vehicles can turn left or right onto Highway 169. Once on Highway 169 westbound, vehicles will have a dedicated right-turn bay, a dedicated through lane, and a dedicated left-turn bay onto southbound Highway 69.

Councilman Mark McBrady said not enough distance is available — between Old Black Canyon Highway and the intersection of Highway 169 with Highway 69 — to allow drivers to make a left onto Highway 169.

“There will be people not letting them in, and it will back up onto the highway,” he said.

Roth acknowledged that it would be difficult to turn left onto Highway 169 and get into the right-turn lane.

“A lot of problems are due to the existing demands on it now,” he said. “We have the standards for the engineering study. We have the requirements. Right now, this site has met all the requirements of the mitigations for that intersection.”

McBrady also brought up two proposed roundabouts, one on Highway 169 — at the access point into Mortimer Family Farms at the store — and one at the intersection of the two state highways.

Roth said Old Black Canyon Highway would be rerouted farther east, where it would intersect with Highway 169 at the Mortimer store entrance as part of the roundabout. This would give traffic exiting the gas station from Old Black Canyon Highway an easy right turn with direct access to the roundabout, leading back to Highway 69, without requiring a left turn onto Highway 169.

However, ADOT is planning the roundabout for the future.

For now, the gas station property owner is following ADOT’s requirements, Roth said. The owners are also giving ADOT an additional 120 feet to widen the road in the future.

“We don’t have the power to stop the development from going in,” Roth said. “We can only approve or disapprove their plans to grant reasonable accesses. We prefer access on streets other than highways.”

The traffic study indicated an average of 50 vehicles per hour using the highway intersection at peak hours, he said.

But McBrady questioned whether that amount was accurate. He said that he counted about three times as many vehicles in an hour at the intersection of Prescott Country Club and Highway 69, the location of a Maverik gas station.

Roth said the engineers use a daily average over a period of time, and the plans met the standard requirements based on the size of the site and number of pumps.

He noted that a concurrent green arrow for traffic that makes a right turn from Highway 169 onto Highway 69 will help vehicles move through the intersection at the same time that left-turning traffic moves from Highway 69 to Highway 169.

Roth also said that during festivals at Mortimer Family Farm, it abides by special traffic configurations that ease ingress and egress off Highway 169 and the property.

“We don’t have the ability to stop development,” Roth emphasized. “We can only approve the plans if they meet the standards we require. If we don’t approve the plans, we can be pulled into court.”

Several citizens attending the meeting echoed council members’ statements, that while they welcome the Giant station, they worry about traffic issues.

Ron Fox suggested a center divider on Highway 169, so traffic exiting from Old Black Canyon Highway is blocked from making left turns.

Former council member Nancy Wright asked about using the underpass and another access off Highway 69 to Old Black Canyon Highway, located to the south. But Roth said those are unavailable for ADOT use because they are private property.

Carol Wagner, who said her son was in a near fatal accident at that highway intersection two years ago, asked to see more in-depth information from ADOT. She also said she would like the next meeting to be in the evening, so working residents can attend. She also asked that the developer and ADOT staff be present to answer questions.

Council member Doug Treadway said he supports the new business, but shares the concerns of fellow council members. “But maybe our fears are premature,” he said. “These are traffic engineers. I’m sure these guys are doing everything by the book.”