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Sun, Sept. 22

Prescott offers $3M for Willow Creek Rd. reroute

PRESCOTT - Stressing that the intersection at Highway 89 and Willow Creek Road is no longer adequate, the City of Prescott this week offered up $3 million toward a related road realignment.

In a unanimous action, the Prescott City Council approved a letter that - jointly, with Yavapai County - would commit the two governments to spending a total of $6 million for a new section of Willow Creek Road as it approaches Highway 89.

The new section would angle north at Pioneer Parkway and would run roughly parallel to Highway 89, connecting with the highway at the Deep Well Ranch Road intersection.

The joint letter refers to a "mutual willingness" by Prescott and Yavapai County "to contribute $6 million of local funds to construct two lanes of new capacity parallel to (Highway 89), and have it in place as a construction bypass when SR 89 is widened by ADOT (the Arizona Department of Transportation)."

The move was part of a Prescott/Yavapai County effort to convince the Arizona State Transportation Board to retain the southern Highway 89 widening (from Highway 89A to the Deep Well Ranch Road, just north of Ruger Road) in its five-year program.

Earlier this year, ADOT announced that the widening of the highway section nearest to Prescott had been removed from the tentative five-year program, while the northern section (from Deep Well to Chino Valley) would continue on as planned this fall.

That generated concerns among local officials about the prospect of having a short section of two-lane highway bordered on both sides by four-lane stretches.

A city letter on the matter predicted a "two-lane bottleneck" on a busy stretch of highway.

City Manager Craig McConnell emphasized Tuesday that ADOT had earlier determined that the 89/Willow Creek intersection must be reworked in order for the highway widening to move forward.

"For that project ever to happen, the Willow Creek Road intersection has to go away," McConnell told the council. "Absolutely fundamental to the widening of 89 is the relocation of Willow Creek Road."

Prescott Engineering Services Director Mark Nietupski noted that the geometry and traffic volumes at the intersection are "undesirable," and contribute to the congestion in the area.

By offering to pay for the new section of Willow Creek Road, local officials are hopeful that the State Transportation Board will put the southern 89 widening project back into the five-year program.

"We were and still are in danger of losing this project," Councilman Chris Kuknyo, who serves as the city's representative on the regional Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization (CYMPO), said of the southern Highway 89 widening project.

City, county, and state officials have spent years trying to come up with a plan for the intersection, which also serves as the entrance to the city's airport (MacCurdy Drive).

The proposed plan involves keeping a signalized intersection at Highway 89 and MacCurdy, but rerouting the Willow Creek Road segment.

The State Transportation Board is expected to make its final decision on the five-year program at its June 14 meeting in Pinetop/Lakeside. Meanwhile, a final public hearing will take place at the board's May 10 meeting in Flagstaff.

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