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Tue, June 25

Tribal connector will add options

PRESCOTT – The state, county and the tribe have yet to work out who will pay for what, but the plans for a new connector road across the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Reservation continue to move forward.

That was the word from officials who spoke to the Arizona State Transportation Board during a meeting at the Prescott Resort on Friday.

The connector road would give motorists a new option for traveling between highways 69 and 89.

For several years, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), the Yavapai-Prescott Tribe, and Yavapai County have been working together on plans for the connector, which they see as a part of ADOT's long-planned overhaul of the 69/89 interchange.

John Supanich of the Kirkham Michael engineering firm explained that the connector would start on Highway 69 across from the entrance to the Target Store in the Frontier Village Shopping Center. From there, the road would travel northwest across the reservation, and it would connect with Highway 89 just northeast of Sundog Ranch Road.

As planned, the new connector would run approximately parallel with the city's Prescott Lakes Parkway connector, which opened in December.

Supanich said the tribe's new connector would consist of seven lanes and include a new bridge across Granite Creek.

The plans originally incorporated the existing bridge on Sundog Ranch Road, Supanich said. But later, he added, "we picked a new location, so we could have a four-way intersection (at Highway 89 and the new connector)."

Although no street currently exists west of Highway 89 to connect with the planned road, officials say the new connector location would leave that option open for the future. On the other hand, the Sundog location would rule out a four-way intersection because of the steep rock cliff on the west side of Highway 89.

ADOT District Engineer Tom Foster estimated that the new bridge would cost about $3.1 million. He said ADOT, the tribe and the county are still discussing who would pay for it.

The existing Sundog bridge is within the Highway 89 right-of-way and is a state bridge, Foster said.

Chris Moss, planner for the tribe, noted that the three entities are still working on pacts that will set out the terms of the financing and the schedule for the new connector.

The agreements should be complete soon, he said. "The bid package (for the connector) could be ready within the year," Moss said.

Engineers estimate that the connector would take about eight to 12 months to build.

The overhaul of the 69/89 interchange is in ADOT's schedule for 2004, Foster said, and the design of the project likely will begin sometime this year. So far, he explained, the state has been in the "design concept phase," which involves looking at general ideas for the project, as well as environmental concerns.

ADOT has been studying the possibility of using the tribe's connector as the left-turn leg for southbound Highway 89 motorists wishing to turn east onto Highway 69.

Foster said engineers are now looking at other options that would also allow left turns closer to the interchange. However, he said those plans are not definite yet.

Along with the connector and the interchange work, the entire project would extend to other improvements such as the removal of the old railroad overpass on Highway 89 and the relocation of the entrance into the VA Medical Center, Foster said.

Officials estimate the cost of the entire project at about $40 million, while the connector portion of the project would cost about $6 million.

The new connector was just one of a host of issues that the seven-member State Transportation Board considered during its meeting. The meeting also included a report from Foster about recent transportation projects in the tri-city area.

Contact Cindy Barks at cbarks@prescottaz.com.

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