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Tue, Sept. 17

Interchange plan is still evolving

PRESCOTT – Construction probably will begin in 2003 or 2004 in the vicinity of the 69/89 intersection, but it may not be the exact work that originally was on tap in the area.

Tom Foster, district engineer for the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), explained to the technical committee of the Central Yavapai Association of Governments this week that the state is still refining plans for the long-awaited overhaul of the intersection of the two highways.

For the past several years, ADOT and its consultants have been working to come up with a better design for the busy intersection. A number of informational meetings have taken place to get the public's take on the design ideas.

Now, Foster said, the state is looking at three other alternatives – all of which would modify the original plans somewhat.

Nothing is final at this point, and Foster said ADOT likely will go to business owners in the area first to bounce off the new ideas, and then to the Prescott City Council. By late April, ADOT could be ready to conduct another public hearing on its new design ideas.

"We're having to make some changes as a result of the partnerships," Foster told the technical group on Thursday morning.

One factor motivating the changes is the way the City of Prescott's new Prescott Lakes Parkway connector is affecting traffic at the 69/89 intersection, as well as the anticipated effect of the connector that the Yavapai Prescott Tribe is planning in the near future.

Foster pointed out that since the city connector opened in late 2001, the truck traffic at the 69/89 intersection has dropped dramatically – from about 12 percent to 14 percent of the total traffic to about 2 percent to 4 percent.

And although he had no numbers that would show a similar drop in actual vehicles, Foster speculated that those totals have dropped as well.

The tribe's connector, which will run from Highway 89 just south of Sundog Ranch Road, to the Target Store entrance on Highway 69, should reduce the southbound traffic at the 69/89 intersection even more, Foster said.

All of that could make an expensive left-turn lane at the 69/89 interchange (southbound from 89 to 69) virtually unnecessary. All three of the new alternatives that ADOT is exploring exclude a left-turn movement at the interchange.

"By (the city and tribe connectors) eliminating that (left-turn) movement under the bridge saves us millions of dollars," Foster said.

That, in turn, has prompted the state to look at spending money on other improvements. "We will be taking some of the money and building pieces" of other improvements in the area, Foster said.

For instance, he said, early work could include widening Highway 89 to two lanes in each direction all the way from the interchange to the city's new Prescott Lakes Parkway connector.

New bridges over Granite Creek also could be part of the early work, Foster said.

For the actual interchange, ADOT is looking at three new options, including:

• An intersection that would include a new "flyover" located north of the existing structure, but eliminate southbound 89-to-69 movement. The new intersection essentially would provide free-flow traffic for all movements. The alternative would include two new ramps.

• Revision of the existing interchange by rehabilitating the existing flyover structure and raising it about two or three feet. Again, the plan would eliminate southbound 89-to-69 movements. Directional ramps would separate traffic headed to Gurley and Sheldon streets.

• Round-abouts to replace the existing 89/69 intersection and the existing intersection at Sheldon and Gurley.

Foster emphasized that exploration into all of the options is still preliminary. Drawings are not yet available for how the round-about option would work, for instance.

In the meantime, ADOT, the Yavapai Tribe, and Yavapai County also are still working on the inter-governmental agreements that would determine the costs for each of the entities.

The tribe's consulting engineer, Kirkham Michael, has come up with a proposal for the costs, which the technical committee members received at this week's meeting.

Under that proposal, the three entities would split the cost of about $26.8 million worth of improvements. The total includes about $6.9 million for the tribe's connector; $3.8 million for the Granite Creek bridge for the new connector; and a total of about $11.4 million for ADOT's work on 89 from the VA Medical Center to Prescott Lakes Parkway.

Contact Cindy Barks at cbarks@prescottaz.com

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