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Mon, Nov. 11

69/89 interchange project brings on new traffic changes

PRESCOTT - As the Arizona Department of Transportation moves onto its next phase in the major construction project at the intersection of highways 69 and 89, local drivers can expect more changes.

This week - with months of work on earth moving, retaining walls, and a new entrance to the VA hospital behind it - ADOT kicks off the second phase in its $23.6 million overhaul of the interchange.

And that means that local drivers will have to become accustomed to a major change in traffic flow - the elimination of left turns for southbound Highway 89 traffic under the 69/89 bridge.

ADOT officials have talked for years about shutting down the left turns under the overpass, and this week, crews made the change.

Andy Roth, the resident engineer for ADOT, said the Wednesday night closure of the left-turn option would be permanent.

Message boards have alerted drivers to the pending change for about two weeks, said ADOT Public Information Officer Bill Williams. The signs have directed southbound Highway 89 traffic to use Prescott Lakes Parkway instead to get to Highway 69.

"It was really a safety issue," Roth said of the ADOT decision to eliminate the left turns under the bridge.

"It was hard to discern which way traffic was going," he said, noting that drivers who waited to make left turns from Highway 89 often could not tell whether the traffic approaching from Gurley Street would turn onto Highway 69 or would proceed north on Highway 89.

Along with the safety issue, the closure of the left turns is happening this week to make way for construction that is necessary on the supports for the new interchange bridge, Roth said.

In fact, the bridgework will dominate much of the construction that takes place in the second phase of the project. Eventually, ADOT will shift traffic from the old overpass to the new one, but that probably will not happen until later in the project, Roth said.

Another traffic change that drivers will notice this week is the elimination of the center dual-turn lane on Gurley between Sheldon and Overland Trail, in front of the Prescottonian Motel.

Roth explained that crews are eliminating the lane in order to shift traffic to allow for lane work on the other side of the street, in front of Yavapai College.

As an alternative to the dual-turn lane, public relations consultant Cody Gildart noted, "We have a well-marked detour to Rush," where drivers will be able to loop back to Gurley, and will have two right-turn movements, rather than a left turn across two lanes of traffic.

Since about November, drivers have dealt with the impacts from the long-awaited 69/89 interchange overhaul.

Throughout much of the winter, crews worked to cut down a portion of the hill in front of Yavapai College to make way for an additional south Highway 89-to-Sheldon lane, as well as a multi-use path.

Gildart, who monitors the comment hotline for the project, said the traffic interruptions that allowed for the dirt trucks to cross Highway 89 have been a topic of many of the complaints the hotline has received.

"The good news is that we have only about two more weeks of the excavation work left," Gildart said.

ADOT's schedule calls for the project to be complete by about fall 2009, and officials say the contractor, FNF Construction, is on track to meet that date.

"We're right on schedule," Williams said.

Contact the reporter at cbarks@prescottaz.com

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