Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Wed, Sept. 18

State unveils latest design for highways 69/89

PRESCOTT – State highway officials unveiled a new design Tuesday for the overcrowded intersection of highways 69 and 89 in Prescott.

The idea is so new that maps at Tuesday's public hearing in Prescott just showed a conceptual draft of how it will work.

It will cost less than the previous design, while adding one-third more capacity, said Tom Foster, district engineer for the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT).

The state and its consultants will have to write a second, new environmental study to go with the new $20 million design.

"There will be another public hearing, so you haven't seen the last of us yet," ADOT consultant Don Smith said. ADOT officials hope to start construction in 2004.

More than 100 people attended Tuesday's hearing, and judging from the verbal comments, many if not most of them live in the Government Canyon area directly south of the highways' intersection.

While ADOT has been working on the new 69/89 intersection design for six years, some Government Canyon residents said they have been waiting for decades for an easier way to get out of the canyon than Butterfield Road – where it's become nearly impossible to turn right onto Gurley, let alone left

That intersection is east of the intersection of Gurley and Sheldon streets, where heavy traffic is a regular occurrence and ADOT has rated much of the traffic movement "F."

"We're going to have someone killed there," said one Government Canyon resident, who said another driver ran into his daughter's vehicle last month when she was trying to turn from Butterfield onto Sheldon. "Something has to be done, and it's got to be done now."

Some people in the audience quickly announced their disapproval when Foster said ADOT eventually will allow only right turns onto Butterfield from Sheldon, and nothing else in or out.

Foster noted that the Yavapai County government is building a new Government Canyon access to Robinson and Gurley streets by extending Hillcrest Road west, and it hopes to start construction in less than a year.

While that extension will have grades as steep as 18 percent, the other new Government Canyon access north through the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Reservation to Heather Heights and Highway 69 also is still in the works for the county.

That means Government Canyon will have two highway accesses, while it has only one now, Foster noted.

After that discussion, Smith and Foster reminded people that they were seeking comments on state, not county, projects.

The major difference between the former plan for the 69/89 intersection and the new plan is that people won't be able to turn from southbound Highway 89 directly onto eastbound Highway 69, officials said.

Instead, Highway 89 travelers will have to turn onto the Yavapai-Prescott Tribe's future connector road, which it hopes to build next year. It will turn off Highway 89 near Sundog Ranch Road and connect to Highway 69 at the Frontier Village traffic light in front of Target.

"That allows us not to have to reconfigure all the ramps" at the 69/89 intersection, Foster said.

Another major, new element to the new plan is, southbound travelers on Highway 89 will be able to drive directly onto Sheldon Street.

ADOT is seeking comments from the public about the plan through Monday, Sept. 10. Those comments about your concerns and priorities will affect what ADOT includes in its next environmental study.

Mail comments to Don Smith, Sverdrup Civil, Inc., 875 West Elliot Road, Suite 201, Tempe, AZ 85284, or fax comments to 480-763-8601; or e-mail don.smith@jacobs.com.

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