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Wed, Dec. 11

Prescott Council questions prospect of 3 new roundabouts on Hwy. 89

PRESCOTT - The possibility of three new roundabouts on North Highway 89 near its intersection with Willow Creek Road raised concerns among Prescott City Council members this week.

The matter came up while the council was considering cancellation of a May 2011 intergovernmental agreement with the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) that obligated Prescott to contribute $50,000 toward design costs near the intersection.

But because the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization (CYMPO), of which Prescott is a member, has since stepped up to cover the cost of the design, the $50,000 contribution was no longer necessary. Council members unanimously agreed to cancel the earlier agreement.

Even so, Mayor Marlin Kuykendall maintained that the city's involvement in planning for the corner was more important than the money.

For instance, he questioned the preliminary concept of constructing three roundabouts in a relatively short distance - at Perkins Drive, the new Deep Well Ranch Road (north of Ruger Road), and a new realigned Willow Creek Road (north of Deep Well Ranch Road).

"Conceivably, we could be looking at three roundabouts in that area?" Kuykendall asked. "Those are going to be awfully close together."

City Manager Craig McConnell noted that while the three-roundabout scenario is possible, the design is still in the works, and some questions still remain on the configuration.

Meanwhile, McConnell said city officials have been pushing for a "grade-separated" intersection, using a flyover that would allow for unimpeded traffic flow, at the northernmost Highway 89 intersection, at the realigned Willow Creek Road.

"Our feeling is that traffic should not stop there," McConnell said of the realigned Willow Creek Road intersection. "It should be a grade-separated."

Kuykendall also had questions about what would happen to the existing Willow Creek Road, after a realignment would move the road to the east. He voiced concerns for the businesses in the area, as well as the nearby Prescott Airport.

"It appears to me that the state and the county are taking a lot of liberty" with the roads in the area, Kuykendall said, adding that some of the area commerce has developed around the existing intersection.

Engineering Services Director Mark Nietupski said city officials have been attending meetings on the design of road. But, he said, the state has jurisdiction over Highway 89.

In response to a question from Councilman Chris Kuknyo about who was the "driving force" for the widening/realignment project, Nietupski said, "ADOT is the driving force; 89 is a state highway," he said, adding, "Their primary focus is the safe management of traffic."

CYMPO Administrator Chris Bridges added, "Ultimately, it does come down to - it's a state highway."

The intersection design is a part of ADOT preparations for the future widening of Highway 89 between Prescott and Chino Valley.

The first phase, which the state plans to begin in 2014, would widen the stretch from the Highway 89A intersection to north of Ruger Road.

The second phase - scheduled for 2016 - would widen the highway from that point, north to the southern limits of Chino Valley.

Along with the money for the design, Bridges said CYMPO also likely would provide about $2.2 million for construction of two "off-system" sections of new roadway - running between the realigned Willow Creek Road and Perkins Drive, and between Ruger Road and Highway 89.

The state currently has $10 million budgeted for the first phase of the widening, Bridges said, and $15 million for the second phase.

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