Originally Published: March 29, 2009 10:46 p.m.
PRESCOTT - The heavy pedestrian and bicycle traffic at the Four-Points intersection in Prescott faces some stiff competition: more than 46,000 vehicles that use the corner every day.
Flanked as it is by an elementary school, a hospital, and a business, the intersection gets plenty of action from a variety of transportation modes.
But spend a little time standing at the corner, and it is readily apparent that walkers and cyclists are at a bit of a disadvantage.
Case in point: Pedestrians regularly trot part of the way to make it across the wide roadway during the traffic signal's allotted "walk" time; and bicyclists often use the sidewalks, in the absence of bike lanes.
The intersection was the site of safety-assessment workshop on Thursday afternoon, in which experts brainstormed methods for improving the pedestrian and bike access.
Even though Four-Points is high-profile because of its high traffic counts, pedestrian and bicycle advocates say it is just one example of Prescott thoroughfares that offer an "incomplete" range of options.
The issue was the topic of a Prescott Alternative Transportation-sponsored "Complete Streets" town hall that took place at Prescott College Thursday night.
About 65 people turned out to hear the views of a panel of four, including PAT Executive Director Lisa Barnes; State Transportation Board member Bill Feldmeier; Pima County Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager Matt Zoll; and Assistant City Attorney Tom Lloyd.
While Zoll outlined a wide range of bike and pedestrian advances that have occurred over the past two decades in Pima County's Tucson area, Barnes and members of the audience maintained that similar progress has been difficult in Prescott.
"It looks and feels like no one ever assumes you're going to be outside of a car," Barnes said of many of the streets in Prescott.
But Feldmeier emphasized the financial aspects of the improvements, noting that the Arizona Department of Transportation currently faces the worst money woes that he has witnessed in his two decades of public service.
"The lack of money is very real," said Feldmeier, a former member of the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors. "I've never seen it this bad."
At the heart of the problem is the dwindling amount of money that is coming into the state from gasoline taxes, Feldmeier said, adding that high gas prices and more energy-efficient vehicles have resulted in the purchase of fewer gallons of gas, which ultimately reduces the state's share of gas revenue.
"Without the fuel tax, we are not going to have the money to pay for bike lanes," Feldmeier said.
But during the public comment portion of the meeting, local resident Leslie Hoy disputed the notion that Prescott could attribute its dearth of bike lanes to dwindling finances.
"When Prescott was growing, with a lot of money coming in, we still didn't have complete streets," Hoy said.
Rather than finances, she maintained that Prescott's resistance to bike lanes was a cultural dilemma, in which some local residents and officials have "a fear of becoming Boulder (Colo.)."
Zoll agreed, noting, "There's never, quote, 'enough money' (for bike lanes)."
To counteract the tendency to let finances drive decisions, Zoll said Pima County adopted policies in the 1980s, which helped to bring about a system that he said currently approaches "complete streets."
"We just have to make it work," Zoll said. "(Money) is not an excuse."