PRESCOTT – State officials hope to divert more than $6 million from one section of the 69/89 intersection project to another, but before they do that, they would like the Prescott City Council to buy into the idea.
Getting that buy-in was the purpose of the presentation that Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) District Engineer Tom Foster made to the City Council on Tuesday.
"My bosses said that before we do the IGA (intergovernmental agreement between the state, Yavapai County and the Yavapai Prescott Tribe), make sure and have the council's concurrence," Foster told the council members. "It's really your gateway."
Although the council members had a number of questions about the proposal, they did not vote on the matter this week. A vote likely will occur when the issue goes back to the council on March 26.
Under the proposal that Foster outlined, ADOT would take about $6.6 million of the total that it had originally earmarked for the overhaul of the busy intersection of highways 69 and 89 and use it instead to widen a portion of Highway 89.
That way, Foster said, the state still would have enough money left to do a revised reworking of the actual interchange, but the widening work would help the entire area.
Driving the changes is the new connector road that the Yavapai Prescott Tribe is planning to build between highways 69 and 89. The new road will begin on 89 just north of Sundog Ranch Road and will connect with Highway 69 at the entrance to the Target Store in Frontier Village.
Foster said that the connector – along with the Prescott Lakes Parkway connector that the city finished in 2001 – will eliminate the need for a complicated left-turn movement under the bridge at the 69/89 interchange. Many drivers are already bypassing that intersection by using the city's connector, he said.
So, while the original plan that ADOT had for the interchange involved a left-turn movement and a traffic signal from southbound 89 onto 69, the new plan would eliminate that part of the interchange, Foster said. Instead, all southbound 89 traffic going to 69 would have to take either Prescott Lakes Parkway or the tribe's new connector.
"The proposal is to join with the tribe, and they can take the left-turn movement," Foster said. "That saves a lot of money, and the (traffic signal) goes away."
The savings that the project would see from the elimination of the left-turn movement at the interchange would then go into widening Highway 89 to five lanes north to the city's Prescott Lakes Parkway.
While the original plan that ADOT came up with in its "design concept report" concentrated most of the overhaul at the interchange itself, Foster said the new proposal would spread the project out, making the entire triangle "one big intersection."
"We can't ignore that the tribe's going to spend a lot of money and put a lot of people on this road," Foster said of the new connector.
The council members' questions centered on the money that the state had earlier earmarked for the interchange job. For instance, Councilman Robert Behnke asked about the status of the remaining money if the state decides to remove $6.6 million for the widening work.
Foster pointed out that the original overhaul project had a price tag of about $21 million. But, he said, ADOT's budget had only about $17 million set aside for the work.
Under the new proposal, he said, the state likely would scale back the plans for the actual intersection somewhat. But, he said, enough money should remain to cover those improvements.
At this point, Foster said, the state is still refining its plans for the intersection. A number of options are under consideration, including two variations of the existing bridge configuration, and one option that would use "round-abouts" to allow traffic to move continuously without traffic signals.
Foster has emphasized all along that the three options are still preliminary, and ADOT has made no final evaluations on the interchange. That probably won't happen until about May, he said, with a public meeting likely in the summer.
In the meantime, the state is working on the design of portions of the project, including the section of Highway 89 in front of the VA Medical Center, which includes new bridges over Granite Creek.
Chris Moss, planner for the tribe, estimated that construction work on the new tribal connector could begin by sometime this summer.
When council members pressed for a completion date for the entire interchange project, Foster said all the work could be done – or at least be under contract – within four years. He added that construction should begin in about two years.
At this point, the state is still working on agreements with the county and the tribe on the financial contributions of each for the entire project.
Contact Cindy Barks at email@example.com