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Tue, Sept. 17

Officials push for Hwy 89 widening: City commits $3 million to realign Willow Creek Road

Courtesy image/City of Prescott

Courtesy image/City of Prescott

PRESCOTT -  This week's show of local support reportedly could help to get a major Highway 89 widening project back in the state's work program.

In consecutive unanimous votes on Tuesday, the Prescott City Council approved three resolutions relating to the long-planned widening of Highway 89 north of Prescott.

Despite questions that arose about bike lanes along a future arterial road in the area, City Councilman Chris Kuknyo urged the council to show its support for the resolutions.

"We're going to go down to the State Transportation Board, and we need to show that we're united," Kuknyo said, referring to the local efforts to get the state to include a Highway 89 widening project in its work program.

Early this year, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) removed from its five-year plan the widening project on Highway 89 between the Highway 89A intersection and just north of Ruger Road.

ADOT had planned for years to widen that stretch to four lanes, in conjunction with the northern section, which runs from about Ruger to the southern boundary of Chino Valley.

With the northern widening still in the works, the removal of the southern project 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 strong push by local officials to get the southern section back in the state's program this past spring was unsuccessful, however, and the project remains unfunded.

Now, the lobbying effort is under way again, and this week's resolutions were an attempt to demonstrate the area's willingness to cooperate and pay for some of the related roadwork.

After the meeting, ADOT District Engineer Alvin Stump said the fact that Prescott and Yavapai County had each committed $3 million to the realigned Willow Creek Road - along with the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization's (CYMPO) commitment of $1.2 million for a related street - were pluses for getting the highway widening back in the program.

Even so, Stump said, "It's tough to say right now" whether the Highway 89 widening would get the necessary state funding. "It has roughly 20,000 vehicles a day, and it is a high priority," he said of the section of highway. "But beyond that, it's hard to speak to that."

Stump pointed out that ADOT had faced removal of about $350 million from of its budget, and the Highway 89 widening (estimated at about $15 million) was just one of the lost projects.

The City Council ultimately approved the inter-related resolutions that:

• Accept the Willow Creek Road Realignment Study recommendation.

• Authorize an intergovernmental agreement between the city and Yavapai Council on the costs, engineering, construction, ownership, operation, and maintenance for the realigned Willow Creek Road.

• Approve an intergovernmental agreement with ADOT for the design and construction of the Highway 89 widening between Highway 89A and the Deep Well Ranch roundabout.

Kuknyo, who serves as Prescott's representative on CYMPO, pointed out that the three resolutions represented "a lot of hard work" by local governments to come to agreement on the realignment of the Highway 89/Willow Creek Road intersection.

But Councilmen Steve Blair and Jim Lamerson both had questions about the proposed bicycle lanes along a future arterial street (Deep Well Ranch Road) running parallel to Highway 89 to the west of the highway.

"What is the thinking of a bike lane on both sides of that road, when we have the Peavine Trail that goes north and south the whole distance out to Perkinsville?" Blair asked. "Why would we put (cyclists) on a major highway when we have other options?"

Engineering Services Di-rector Mark Nietupski said city standards for four-lane arterial streets include bike lanes. But, he said, the conceptual plans for the road would not commit the city to the bike lanes.

"At some time in the future when this project becomes determined necessary, the city has the option (of bike lanes)," Nietupski said. "It's nothing more than establishing that configuration going forward."

Jim Knaup of the Prescott Alternative Transportation organization pointed out that bike lanes would help make the roads safer for people who must use them to get to work or school.

"Yes, there are places we would all rather ride bikes," he said of the high traffic roads. "But people may not have the luxury of having another way to get to work."

While ADOT had planned to have the northern Highway 89 widening under way this past summer, Stump said utility conflicts had pushed off the construction. He estimated that the project would go out to bid in January 2014.

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