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Fri, Nov. 22

Highway 89 project up for late-summer completion

PRESCOTT ­ Now more than halfway through a yearlong Highway 89 construction project, crews reportedly are on schedule to complete the job by late summer.

Along the way, local drivers should prepare for some major changes on the highway, including a new roundabout configuration at the corner of Highway 89 and Willow Lake Road.

Since about August 2005, the two-and-a-half-mile stretch of Highway 89 from Sundog Ranch Road to Willow Lake Road has been undergoing an extensive overhaul that includes widening of the roadway, installation of curb and gutter and landscaping.

For months, crews have been adding pavement to the edges of the highway to widen the two-lane portions to five lanes. Raised medians are also part of the project in some areas.

Meanwhile, work has also been under way on another major component ­ the installation of a roundabout intersection at Willow Lake Road.

While crews have focused so far on utility preparation and some curb-and-gutter installation at the intersection, work should intensify in coming weeks.

Public Relations Manager Bryce Snyder of EnviroSystems Management reported this week that crews soon would move curb-and-gutter installation to the west side of the roundabout, which will require the temporary closure of a portion of Willow Lake Road.

At some point during the construction phase, crews will convert the intersection's current traffic signal setup to the roundabout configuration. "It won't be operating as a roundabout for about four weeks," Snyder said.

A newsletter that ADOT sent out to several hundred addresses along the Highway 89 corridor seeks to prepare the community for the change to the roundabout.

The newsletter notes: "The two-lane roundabout will be open and in use this spring."

The change will involve the removal of the traffic signal and a conversion to a system in which drivers entering the roundabout must yield to drivers already in the center circle.

ADOT's Alvin Stump noted in the newsletter: "Once you are in the roundabout, you have the right of way."

When ADOT first proposed the roundabout in 2004, the idea generated considerable debate in the community.

ADOT officials made a number of presentations to the public and to the Prescott City Council to explain the concept of roundabouts.

Ultimately, a majority of City Council members endorsed the idea ­ mainly because of the safety benefits.

The newsletter enumerates a number of benefits of the modern roundabout, including:

• Traffic flow increases.

• Accident rates decrease.

• Fuel consumption decreases.

• Air pollution decreases.

The newsletter goes on to caution drivers to slow down to 15 to 25 miles per hour as they are approaching the roundabout.

During the upcoming work in the intersection, Snyder said crews would install message boards alongside the roadway to alert drivers of the temporary closure of Willow Lake Road.

Contact the reporter at cbarks@prescottaz.com

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