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Wed, Feb. 26

First, let's beef up 'Blood Alley' enforcement

I agree, it is time to take some serious and major action on "Blood Alley" – Highway 69 between Prescott and Prescott Valley – at least to try to reduce accidents and recent carnage.

Your suggestion to add a barrier between east- and west-bound traffic as a "long run" mitigation of some accidents has merit, but also suggests a possible alternative.

First, I agree that we should consider a median, but definitely not as the only or ultimate alternative. I presume that your "median divider" would be a "Jersey Barrier" type as defined by the recommended roadway design standards that all state transportation departments use as minimum design criteria, which is about 3 to 4 feet high and not just a "median divider" of raised curbing which doesn't deflect an at-speed-limit-or-above vehicle away from on-coming traffic.

As a retired highway structural engineer and automation administrator, among other jobs, I think you always face trade-offs in the design of roadways regarding travel time, speed limits, current and future traffic volumes, traffic type, growth, construction and maintenance costs, risk assessment, etc.

To meet those criteria we also must meet the expectations of the driving public which finances such improvements through state and federal fuel taxes, to have access to and use of effective and efficient public roadways.

Bottom line, this entails striving to provide efficient movement of people and goods with optimum safety. There is no absolute safety, since we will always have accidents, but let's hope we can minimize them with fewer fatal results.

To build a traffic barrier to retrofit Highway 69 say, between Costco and West Prescott Valley, it would be several miles long and be costly to build in terms of time and dollars. It would take several months to design and engineer such items as the left-turn openings and placement.

Where would we put the needed access to those living and owning businesses along the route? It also would take time to find the money, to receive bids, award the contract and build the barrier. Remember, a barrier with such turning "openings" also would expose on-coming motorists to head-on accident crashes with the ends of the barrier at these turning points.

Perhaps there's a better option: First, enforce the existing speed limits – period! This can start immediately. And fines could help pay for the added enforcement cost. Then add enforcement resources – two or three additional enforcement officers, covering multiple shifts concentrating on peak traffic time, including "red-eye" nights/weekends. They even could patrol farther east of Prescott Valley. The cost of salary and benefits should not exceed $50,000-70,000/officer, with possibly more patrol vehicles at an annual added cost for operation and depreciation of $15,000-20,000/vehicle. Adding administrative overhead, the annual cost per officer-vehicle on the road should be around $80,000-90,000 per year. If we had three such enforcement officers principally patrolling this stretch, it would cost perhaps a total of $240,000-$280,000/year.

Total time plus cost to construct a barrier – including preliminary engineering, design, bidding, construction, etc., could be in the $3 million-$4 million range. It would thus take about 10 or more years for the enforcement option to equal the cost of such barrier construction.

Plus, it's possible to add enforcement personnel and vehicles much more quickly – measured in terms of a few weeks or months, not years as with construction of a barrier. Even with a barrier, accidents still would occur and we still would need effective enforcement and response. Unless we enforce speed limits effectively, we still will have speeders and inattentive drivers.

We could serve the situation on "Blood Alley" better and sooner with beefed-up enforcement.

This option appears to be cost-effective, and would produce results sooner over the barrier alternative in both time and dollars.

(Jack Stanton is a retired engineer of both Iowa and Arizona, and was with ADOT for 17 years. He was a specialist in computer software systems administration for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation, developing for and used by various state DOT's. He is a resident of the Prescott Country Club.)

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