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Thu, Dec. 12

Dewey-Humboldt council discusses, then nixes Hwy 69-Main Street roundabout

This schematic shows how a roundabout at Highway 69 and Main St. in Humboldt might look.<br>
Courtesy town of Dewey-Humboldt

This schematic shows how a roundabout at Highway 69 and Main St. in Humboldt might look.<br> Courtesy town of Dewey-Humboldt

In an attempt to slow traffic at the intersection of Highway 69 and Main Street, Humboldt, the Dewey-Humboldt town council looked at the only viable Arizona Dept. of Transportation recommendation - a roundabout - and declined to pursue the matter further.

"A roundabout is not a popular topic in Dewey-Humboldt," said Town Manager William Emerson at the start of the discussion during this past week's council study session.

For years, residents have endeavored to find a way to reduce the speed limit along Highway 69 through Dewey-Humboldt from the current 65 mph to 55 mph. The speed limit drops to 55 mph just south of the intersection of Highway 169 near the former Young's Farm.

Emerson said ADOT would not lower the speed limit to 55 or put in a traffic light, as D-H has requested, but it would agree to a roundabout, which drops the speed to 45 mph. Based on traffic volume and below state average vehicle accidents, ADOT said the intersection would not warrant a traffic light at this time, but it may install one at a later date if traffic volume increases.

That is not likely, said Joel Berman, D-H Public Works Project manager, as ADOT is considering a bypass from I-17 to Fain Road, which will decrease traffic along the Dewey-Humboldt portion of Highway 69.

ADOT made several safety recommendations based on its Road Safety Assessment dated October 2009, only one of which deals with decreasing the speed limit. The recommendations include removing a tree south of Main Street that blocks the view of oncoming traffic on Highway 69; relocating the Main Street sign to give more warning in advance of the turn lanes; installing additional signage to indicate "Historic District," which lets drivers know they are no longer on an undeveloped section of Highway 69; consider installing street lights, which will reduce nighttime crashes; extending the southbound left-turn lane and centerline markings closer to the intersection; and consider a roundabout for this intersection.

Only the latter would lower the speed limit.

The council looked at the viability of a roundabout, the pros and cons, and what effect it might have on commercial property at the intersection and with town residents.

"As a bicyclist, they are not safe. People in roundabouts don't look for bicyclists," said council member Nancy Wright. "My riding group avoids them if we can."

Mark McBrady owns commercial property at the intersection and said he would be the person most impacted by a roundabout.

"Let ADOT know we don't want it, and that might open the doors (to lower the speed limit)," McBrady said.

Emerson said there are two ways to get the speed limit reduced - an increased number of fatalities, and if people are driving less than the current legal limit. ADOT records indicate two fatalities along the identified 3.5-mile section in the past five years. Emerson said the average travel speed is 65 mph.

"Prescott Valley was able to get stop lights and reduced speed because they had extensive development plans," he said; Dewey-Humboldt can't make that argument. But the town can appeal ADOT's decisions based upon its senior population.

At least 59 percent of the residents are 55 or older, and at least 35 percent are 65 or older. Emerson said that with increased age, drivers' vision decreases and their reaction time increases. Lowering the speed limit would give senior drivers a better-than-adequate stopping sight distance than that required by ADOT.

While engineers have improved the design of modern traffic circles, many people retain a negative opinion, Emerson said.

"All traffic control changes receive criticism from the traveling public because drivers are required to change their habits," he wrote in the agenda memo.

In addition to providing visual cues to drivers that they are entering a developed area, roundabouts have other benefits, the ASOT safety report said. They reduce injury accidents by 75 percent and fatal accidents by 90 percent; increase efficient traffic flow up to 50 percent; help the environment by reducing carbon emissions; decrease fuel consumption by as much as 30 percent; and are less expensive than traffic signals and do not require expensive equipment or maintenance.

Emerson said town staff has no plans to pursue the roundabout unless the council directs otherwise.

"I'm not in favor of it at all," said council member Terry Nolan. "Let's move on."

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