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Wed, Feb. 19

CV council approves 89 median<BR>Does not want another 'Blood Alley'

CHINO VALLEY – During Thursday night's meeting, members of the Town Council voted unanimously in favor of a Highway 89 median after repeatedly stating that they do not want another "Blood Alley."

In recent months, the Town Council studied two different preliminary design plans for a Highway 89 widening project. One plan featured a two-way left turn lane, while another centered on a raised median. Some of the town's business owners oppose the median because they are afraid that it would hurt their business.

Steve Martin, a traffic consultant, and Mike Willett, a Yavapai County engineer, said nationwide statistics show that a raised median will reduce collisions by 25 percent to 70 percent. During the meeting, the duo presented statistics from the University of Iowa to support their point. Willett and Martin said the Arizona Department of Transportation also shares that opinion.

The two also presented statistics that said towns with similar populations saw increased sales growth rates after implementing raised medians. The council decided to support the raised median with the intent of reducing collisions. The proposed median would include left turn lanes about every quarter-mile.

Mayor Karen Fann summarized the pros and cons of the raised median. "The only objection that I have heard is that some business owners are afraid that it might affect their business," she said.

Later, Fann said, "Safety, safety, safety is number one. When I hear that auto fatalities and accidents will decrease by over 25 percent, I pay attention to that."

She then cited several collisions resulting in fatalities that occurred on the highway in recent years. Fann also said that a four-lane highway with a raised median handles as much traffic as a six-lane highway without any medians.

Council member Pat Purdin said she has asked owners of large pickup trucks if they will be able to make U-turns on the highway. She said she thinks they will be able to do this.

Ron Minnich, a council member, said he frequently asks residents if they use the two-way left turn lane in central Chino Valley to turn left into businesses. Most residents avoid the lane because many motorists use it to merge into traffic.

"If you are following the law and using that to make a left turn, you are at severe risk of someone not seeing you about to get into that lane, who is coming from the other direction," Minnich said.

Town Manager Bill Pupo presented photos of severe collisions in the two-way left turn lane.

None of the town residents spoke against the median when the agenda item came up.

Jody Zito, a Chino Valley business owner, said he thinks there is a lack of awareness among business owners. He estimated that only 30 out of 79 affected business owners have attended meetings about the item. Zito said he plans to host January meetings with Willett to educate business owners about the project.

Fann noted that the council voted in favor of a specific design plan to expedite the project. Specific details about the project (such as the location of median breaks for left-hand turn lanes) still need to be decided upon, she said.

Council members stated that they do not want another "Blood Alley," referring to the stretch of Highway 69 between Prescott and Prescott Valley which has earned the nickname because of the significant number of fatal traffic accidents that have occurred in the past.

Contact the reporter at jkamin@prescottaz.com

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