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Thu, Nov. 21

Prescott urges ADOT to retain Highway 89 widening plan

PRESCOTT - A "severely constrained two-lane segment" would be the result if the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) were to follow through with its plan to indefinitely postpone the widening of Highway 89 near Prescott.

That was the word from the Prescott City Council, which agreed Tuesday to send a letter to ADOT, strongly advising against such a delay.

The city is just the latest area government to protest the state's recommendation to remove from its five-year program the plan to widen Highway 89 between Highway 89A and just north of Ruger Road.

Earlier this week, the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors agreed to send a letter urging ADOT to retain the project, and the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization (CYMPO) Executive Board and the Prescott Valley Town Council both approved similar letters. The Chino Valley Town Council also is scheduled to consider one next week.

CYMPO Administrator Chris Bridges said he plans to take copies all of the letters to Friday's Arizona State Transportation Board meeting in Phoenix, where he also will make a pitch to the board to retain the project in the coming five-year program.

Prescott City Manager Craig McConnell explained to the City Council Tuesday that ADOT has proposed removing the long-planned $15 million widening project from its five-year program.

"Unless it is placed in the program, that project will go away," McConnell added.

Because the widening project from Chino Valley to Ruger Road is set to go on as planned this summer, the highway ultimately would consist of four lanes near Chino Valley, and two lanes in the busy section near Prescott.

"Elimination or long term deferral of this project will severely impact traffic operations and the safe, efficient movement (of traffic)," the city's letter stated.

It added that the south section of the Highway 89 widening includes a developed area adjacent to the Prescott Municipal Airport, "which is expected to grow significantly through two annexations being initiated by the city this year."

Councilman Chris Kuknyo, who serves as the city's representative to CYMPO, noted that ADOT originally planned to do the entire widening as one project, but later split it into two.

Initially, the state planned to do the southern section first - in 2014 - with the Chino Valley section set to occur in 2016. But about a year ago, ADOT announced that it planned to swap the two phases, with the northern phase beginning this year, and the southern section occurring in 2016.

Now, the state's recommended 2014-to-2018 program has removed the southern portion altogether.

The five-year program still needs the final approval of the State Transportation Board, however, and the Prescott area's effort is intended to push for the Highway 89 project.

Bridges said a public comment period would begin on Friday, allowing people to petition the state about the project.

The tentative five-year program will be available for public review and comment at www.azdot.gov. ADOT has developed a "how to read it" guide and welcomes feedback at FiveYearProgram@azdot.gov.

ADOT officials have noted that dwindling revenues have caused the state to cut about $350 million from the five-year program.

"It is a perfect storm that's been brewing for the last few years as the effects of the economic downturn hit us all," stated a news release from ADOT. "The Arizona Department of Transportation has been forecasting dramatic funding challenges since 2009 that will affect projects across the state."

The State Transportation Board is expected to take a final vote on the five-year program at its June 14 meeting in Pinetop-Lakeside.

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