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Tue, Oct. 22

Column: Prescott street improvements on the way

Have you had the opportunity to drive the Willow Creek Road realignment? It’s a very nice stretch of road running north of the Pioneer Parkway/Willow Creek Road intersection connecting to Highway 89 at the Deep Well Ranch Road roundabout. This project was constructed by Fann Contracting and came in four months ahead of schedule and $600,000 under budget. Kudos to Mike and Jason Fann and their crew for their fine work. The land for the Willow Creek project was donated to the city by the James family. Thank you, Ron James, for your constant generosity to Prescott. Also, I would like to give a shout out to Prescott’s Public Works Director, Henry Hash, and his team; Byron Jaspers, Craig Brown, and the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors; and the Central Yavapai Planning Organization (CYMPO) led by Christopher Bridges. One thing I have learned as the Prescott City Council’s representative to CYMPO is that street and highway construction takes much planning, time, money, and regional cooperation. All came into play on this project.

The realignment project is the first of several improvements that are headed our way over the next few years. ADOT will be continuing the widening of Highway 89 through the airport area, scheduled to go out to bid in the Spring of 2017, with construction beginning next summer. This will address many safety and capacity issues particularly along the Antelope Hills golf course. Two other focus areas are a roundabout on Highway 89, south of Highway 89A , and the widening of Highway 69, west of Prescott Lakes Parkway.

The roundabout on Highway 89 is adjacent to the Dells, the Constellation Trail, and Phippen Museum and will provide greater safety at a future intersection serving thousands of vehicles daily. In June, the Council unanimously approved the Walden Ranch residential project which will be located on 227 acres east of the Phippen Museum, off of Highway 89. This project of 215 homes will be a great asset to our community. By being proactive and planning ahead with a roundabout at this location, the City will save money and provide a safer alternative to a traditional intersection.

While a roundabout may initially cost more to construct ($850,000 for a traditional signalized intersection vs. $950,000 for a roundabout), operation and maintenance costs of roundabouts are negligible. The Walden Ranch development will pay a proportionate share of the roundabout. The overall costs are less for a roundabout and the service life is ten years longer than the other configuration. However, the real savings over a traditional signalized intersection are human lives. The National Academy of Sciences reports more than a 90% reduction in fatalities with roundabouts over intersections! Add to that astonishing fact a 76% reduction in injuries and 35% reduction in all crashes, and the rationale for this roundabout becomes a sound, common-sense solution. Data shows that roundabouts avoid left-turn collisions and T-bone crashes caused by red light-runners. They also move traffic more efficiently, avoid congestion and are better for air quality and fuel use. Most importantly, the life saved by this roundabout just may be yours or one of your loved ones. I personally enjoy driving through the Dells and believe this roundabout will be a beautiful entrance and exit to our city. Let’s make it happen!

Finally, all of us who use Highway 69 west of Prescott Lakes Parkway realize how important widening it will be to our community. The average daily traffic on this stretch of Hwy 69 of 43,175 vehicles per day is higher than I-10 between Tucson and Phoenix! Sadly, in the last five years there have been 583 total crashes with four fatalities in this one mile stretch. The City is working with ADOT, the County, and CYMPO to get this widening project on the state work schedule.

Through regional cooperation with Yavapai County, CYMPO and ADOT, we can make our community safer and keep traffic moving more efficiently!

Billie Orr is a Prescott City Councilwoman.

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