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Fri, Dec. 06

ADOT, Prescott discuss realignment of Highway 89 and Willow Creek Road

PRESCOTT - City of Prescott concerns about the future configuration of Highway 89 near its intersection with Willow Creek Road could affect the Arizona Department of Transportation's realignment plans.

For months, work has been under way on the design for reworking and widening Highway 89 in northeast Prescott.

This past January, the Prescott City Council discussed the plans, and in February, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) conducted a public meeting to discuss the design.

During those meetings, concerns arose over ADOT's original idea to build three new roundabouts as a part of the future widening of the highway.

Another concept that involved rerouting Willow Creek Road either to the south or the north of the current MacCurdy Drive/Highway 89 intersection also raised concerns.

One of the options proposed using Perkins Drive instead of MacCurdy Drive as an intersecting point for Willow Creek/Highway 89. Another would create a new stretch of Willow Creek Road to the north, running parallel with and west of Highway 89, and ultimately intersecting with the highway north of Ruger Road.

The proposals also involved doing away with the MacCurdy Drive traffic signal and restricting traffic at the intersection.

In January, Prescott Mayor Marlin Kuykendall worried that the state and county were "taking a lot of liberty" with the MacCurdy intersection, which serves as the entrance to the Prescott Airport and also fronts several businesses.

This week, Prescott Engineering Services Director Mark Nietupski reported that the city has proposed maintaining the existing MacCurdy intersection, with its traffic signal.

"We expressed that the 89 design include full access at 89 and MacCurdy," Nietupski said Wednesday, referring to a city/ADOT meeting that took place last week. "We're suggesting that the signal remain in place."

The proposed change would reduce the number of project roundabouts to two, Nietupski said - one at the new Deep Well Ranch Road (north of Ruger Road), and another at Perkins Drive (at the entrance to the Antelope Hills Golf Course clubhouse).

Nietupski said the city views MacCurdy as a significant intersection. "(Elimination of the intersection) has been a concern to the city, as it is the main entry to the airport," he said.

ADOT Community Relations Project Manager Bill Pederson said this week that ADOT is considering the city's suggestions.

"ADOT met with City of Prescott staff last week and is currently evaluating their proposals," Pederson said. "We are working closely with the City of Prescott to come up with a plan to more efficiently join Willow Creek Road with the highway."

ADOT officials have maintained that the current skewed geometry of the Willow Creek/MacCurdy/89 intersection causes traffic problems.

Pederson allowed that "there are unresolved questions about how the realigned Willow Creek Road will connect (with Highway 89). One involves whether or not there will continue to be a traffic signal at MacCurdy."

While ADOT is taking the city's suggestions into consideration, Pederson said, "No decisions have been made."

And because the state appears poised to switch the timing for the two phases of the Highway 89 widening, Pederson said a decision on the Willow Creek/89 intersection is not as urgent as it previously was.

Deputy State Engineer Dallas Hammit said in February that ADOT was considering a two-year postponement of the Highway 89 widening closest to Prescott (from the Highway 89A intersection to the new Deep Well Ranch Road), and moving up the northern section of the widening - from Deep Well Ranch Road to the southern boundary of Chino Valley - to 2013.

That would flip the order of the two phases. ADOT originally planned to do the southern section in 2014, and the Chino Valley section in 2016.

Pederson said the Arizona State Transportation Board would consider the schedule change at its June 15 meeting in Show Low.

If the change becomes official, he said the northern widening project could get under way by about spring 2013.

Along with the Highway 89 widening design, a Planning Assistance for Rural Areas (PARA) study also is under way to help determine a more efficient configuration for Willow Creek Road and how it connects with Highway 89.

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