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Public gets peek at Phippen-area roundabout plans

The red shaded area denotes the Walden Ranch.

The red shaded area denotes the Walden Ranch.

PRESCOTT — With the design of the controversial Highway 89/Phippen Museum roundabout now about 90-percent complete, the City of Prescott took the preliminary plans to the public this week.

More than 50 people turned out at the Phippen Museum Wednesday evening, Oct. 19, to look at plans and ask city engineers about the specifics.

City officials have emphasized that the roundabout will be a part of a larger project, which also will include highway widening, utility improvements, and a new trailhead for the nearby Constellation Trail.

Prescott Public Works Director Henry Hash says the entire project is estimated to cost about $3.5 million. Of that, he said, the roundabout would amount to about $1 million.

The roundabout project was pulled from last year’s city budget after many in the community questioned the need for it. The Prescott City Council opted to put the project back into the current fiscal-year budget, prompting the continuation of the design.

Questions from the public have continued, however – especially concerning plans for a new subdivision, Walden Ranch (to be located east of the roundabout), and the developers’ share of the cost for the roundabout.

Hash noted Wednesday that Walden Ranch’s share is being calculated using the projected traffic flow from the new 215-lot subdivision.

A development agreement between the city and developer makes the subdivision responsible for a “pro-rata” share of the cost of the roundabout – to be determined by a traffic study.

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Prescott Traffic Engineer Ian Mattingly, left, explains the details of the proposed new roundabout on Highway 89 near the Phippen Museum to Lynette Tritel, curator at the Phippen, center, and Riley Young, a nearby homeowner, right.

“Based on their share of the traffic,” Hash said, the developers’ cost for the highway project has been estimated at about $100,000.

The city has also noted that the roundabout and widening project is being done in conjunction with the Arizona Department of Transportation’s (ADOT) plans for a widening of Highway 89 to the north, roughly between the Deep Well Ranch Road intersection, and the Highway 89A interchange.

ADOT Senior Construction Engineer Andy Roth, who attended the Wednesday night meeting, noted that the state’s widening project is scheduled to go out to bid in early 2017, with construction set to get underway later that year.

Among those who will be most affected by the highway changes, reviews appeared to be mixed Wednesday night. Several owners noted that the changes would restrict access to their property, while others maintained the roundabout would help to make the intersection safer.

Janet O’Neil, who lives along Highway 89, worried about the impact the roundabout would have on her ability to get in and out of her home.

Currently, the traffic signal at Highway 89A causes breaks in the traffic, O’Neil says, allowing her to exit and enter her home. But she says the roundabout would slow traffic down and even out the gaps. “We’re not going to be able to get in and out,” she said.

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The plans for the proposed roundabout on Highway 89 near the Phippen Museum feature expanded lanes and a new parking area for the nearby hiking trail.

But Riley Young, who also lives along the highway, across from the Phippen Museum, voiced support for the proposed changes. “I like roundabouts,” he said, pointing out that the slower traffic lessens the severity of accidents, as compared with traffic signals.

Prescott Valley resident Jay Hingst disagreed, however, maintaining that roundabouts are difficult for large vehicles such as RVs to navigate. He contended that installation of roundabouts would have a negative impact on Prescott’s economy, because tourists would avoid the community.

Hash said the city would take the comments from the public into consideration during the final design. If the project goes out to bid in December, as planned, he said the construction could get underway in early 2017. The project is expected to take about a year to complete.

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