PRESCOTT - Culminating more than 15 years of planning and construction, the new Yavpe Connector is set to open to traffic next week.
The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe Board of Directors announced this week that it plans to open the long-awaited link between highways 69 and 89 on Monday, March 4.
Also known as the "tribal connector," the 1.25-mile road will give drivers a direct link between North Highway 89 and East Highway 69.
As a part of the project, new traffic signals were installed on the highways on both ends of the connector.
While a Highway 69 signal was already in place at the entrance to the Target store in the Frontier Village shopping center, the project required the installation of a new four-way light.
On the Highway 89 end, installation work began on a new signal in late 2012. The signal is expected to become active this weekend, in preparation for the Monday opening of the connector, Prescott Traffic Engineer Ian Mattingly said Wednesday.
Crews are scheduled to activate the signal with flashing lights Friday afternoon to alert drivers, Mattingly said, and the signal should be fully functional before noon on Saturday.
The city will place message boards on the highway in each direction, letting drivers know that the connector will open on Monday.
Tim Stotler, assistant county engineer with Yavapai County, explained that the new Highway 89 signal is located half on county right-of-way, and half on city right-of-way. Through an agreement between the two entities, the maintenance responsibility for the signal lies with the city.
According to a news release from the tribe, a Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe Master Land Use Plan envisioned the connector years ago as a way to "enhance the opportunity for business" and as an alternative connection between the area's two major highways, 89 and 69.
The first and second phases of construction began in 2008 with the replacement of the Sundog Bridge across Granite Creek near Highway 89.
"These phases were completed with both Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe funds and funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)," the new release stated.
Work on the third phase - from the Sundog Business Park to Highway 69 - wrapped up in 2011 and was paid for by the tribe and Yavapai County.
Money for the fourth and final phase, which involved the intersection and widening of Highway 69, came exclusively from the tribe, according to the news release.
Although the tribe declined to release the amount of local tribal money that went into the project, the tribe reportedly paid the "lion's share" of the cost.
Meanwhile, other government entities have reported spending a total of about $5,470,000 on the project.
Records from the BIA show that about $2,870,000 of Indian Reservation Roads (IRR) money went toward the construction of the approaches (about 100 feet on either side of the bridge) and the Sundog Bridge.
In addition, Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) District Engineer Alvin Stump reported that ADOT contributed about $1.5 million to the cost of the bridge.
And Stotler said Yavapai County contributed about $1.1 million to the project.
Although the connector road has been paved for more than a year, ADOT reported in the fall of 2012 that a new traffic study had led to the need for changes to the Highway 69 intersection design. Recent work widened a section of Highway 69 from four lanes to six.
"Working closely with the Arizona Department of Transportation, the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe designed and built the road to meet current and future demands on the regional traffic network," stated the tribe's news release.