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Wed, Nov. 13

Reduced population growth spurs revamp of Regional Transportation Plan

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Photos.com

When local officials last approved a Regional Transportation Plan in 2006, the Prescott area was in the midst of a major growth spurt - a factor reflected in the plan's population projections.

The 2006 plan estimated that area population (including Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, and unincorporated Yavapai County) would grow by 280 percent over the next two and a half decades - from 117,671 in 2006 to 439,000 in 2030.

Not long afterward, however, the economic downturn dealt a blow to the area's development, causing a significant slowdown in population growth.

Now, with local governments kicking off an updated regional transportation planning effort, population will be a central part of the discussion.

Local residents will have an opportunity to weigh in on the updated plan at two meetings in Prescott Valley on Wednesday. The meetings will take place from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., and from 5:30 to 7:30 March 28 at the Prescott Valley Public Library's third-floor Crystal Room, 7501 E. Civic Center Circle.

The study consultant, Jacobs Engineering, will make a brief presentation at the meetings before going into an open-house format.

"The majority of complaints we've gotten from the old study is that the population numbers are too high," said Chris Bridges, administrator of the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization (CYMPO), the organization overseeing the plan.

The updated plan will adjust the population projections to be more in line with the current numbers from the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES).

While the old plan projected annual growth of 5.5 percent or more, Bridges said DES currently is using percentages of 2.3 to 2.5 percent. "In some cases, they might even be less," he added.

Dissatisfaction with the 2006 numbers was apparent at a February area meeting on the Arizona Department of Transportation's (ADOT) plans to realign the Willow Creek Road/Highway 89 intersection.

Audience members at that meeting maintained that the state was planning for population growth that had not materialized.

Bridges noted that the Willow Creek plan is just one of a number of road-design studies currently under way in the area, which is adding urgency to the update of the Regional Transportation Plan.

Along with the Willow Creek/Highway 89 realignment, planning also is under way on the Sundog connector and the Interstate 17-to-Fain Road alignment, he said.

"All of these other studies are just guessing right now," Bridges said of the population numbers. "The design projects are essentially on hold."

While the study will update population projections, it will not get into traffic modeling. Bridges said the 2012 effort is a scaled-down transportation plan, intended to get the area through the next two years.

In 2014, the CYMPO area will be required to do a full Regional Transportation Plan that will include land use information from area general plans, Bridges said. CYMPO earlier got a two-year reprieve from the Federal Highway Administration, because general plan efforts were under way in most of its member entities.

Ultimately, CYMPO approved an $81,321 contract with Jacobs Engineering for the interim plan. That cost compares with the $300,000 tab for the full Regional Transportation Plan in 2006.

The consultants will include public feedback in the updated plan's finished product, Bridges said, adding that another round of meetings would take place later in the planning process. He expects the updated plan to be complete by late May or early July.

In addition to comments from the meetings, CYMPO also will accept online comments on the planning process at its website at www.cympo.com.

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