Originally Published: August 24, 2018 8:01 p.m.
Updated as of Friday, August 24, 2018 11:46 PM
Frustrated with how traffic narrows to two lanes in either direction along Highway 69 between Prescott Lakes Parkway and Yavpe Connector at Frontier Village? In two years, the Arizona Department of Transportation will begin expansion work on the 1-mile section building an additional lane in each direction.
According to the ADOT Five-Year Plan, a partnership between the state, Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization (CYMPO), the City of Prescott and Yavapai County will supply the necessary funding, $10 million, for construction.
ADOT has set aside $1.3 million for rights-of-way and utilities in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019-20, and $8.7 million for construction in FY 2020-21.
“We haven’t started the final design yet and have no start date,” said Alvin Stump, ADOT Northwest District engineer. ADOT plans to advertise for design contracts this fall, with the city, county and CYMPO contributing about $1.7 million toward the design costs, he added.
Highway 69 opens to three lanes in each direction east and west before and after this stretch, then closes back down to two lanes, which has resulted in dangerous bottlenecks and more than 500 crashes in the past five years, Chris Bridges, CYMPO administrator, said in a Daily Courier story in January 2018. About 45,000 cars travel Highway 69 each day between Prescott and Prescott Valley.
ADOT also plans to make improvements along Highway 69 in Dewey-Humboldt at the intersection with Highway 169. Developers for a Giant Gas Station currently are going through the permitting process with the town for construction on the southeast corner.
“We recognize the need to upgrade the intersection,” Stump said. “We’ve given some thought to doing a roundabout in the future, but we haven’t finalized a decision.”
ADOT will be looking at other potential commercial development at the corner that will impact its choices, he added.
A roundabout also has been discussed for the intersection of Highway 89A and Robert Road where five fatalities have occurred in the past five years. The plan has nothing programmed for the interchange at this time, however, Stump said.
“We are going to put up some flashing signs in advance of the interchange of the signal to alert drivers, to raise a little awareness,” he said, adding that some of the fatalities involved driver distraction.
In one crash, the driver was impaired and rear-ended another vehicle. Another involved a driver making a U-turn in the intersection. For others, it was a matter of distraction, and the signal should help.
“Realizing we don’t have the money to build the intersection right now, we can still place the flashing sign to warn drivers there’s a signal coming,” he said.
Long-range improvement plans on Highway 89 between Chino Valley and Paulden include widening the highway to four lanes on a 13-mile segment extending from Road 3 North to past Wishing Well intersection within the Kaibab Nation Forest boundary. Stump spoke to community members in January about proposed plans for putting in more roundabouts.
Roundabouts, while not popular with every driver, force traffic to slow down and decrease fatalities by 90 percent, he said.
ADOT plans to add turn lanes through Paulden at the Post Office and Pink Store, and may drop the speed limit to 45 mph along the highway.
Heading south to Phoenix on I-17 brings its own headaches, particularly with heavy traffic Friday through Sunday. ADOT has funds for improvement design in this fiscal year’s budget, Stump said. Estimates for this project that include building two flex lanes between Sunset Point and Black Canyon City, and adding a third lane in both directions between Anthem and Black Canyon City. The work won’t begin until FY 2021-22.
Stump said ADOT is applying for a $120 million federal grant to help pay for the project. If it is not successful in obtaining the grant, ADOT’s $168 million will pay for the flex lanes. “Plus, we’ll build as much of the southbound lane at Black Canyon City as we can,” he added.
While he is excited about getting the Highway 69 and I-17 projects into ADOT’s plans, Stump said there is less and less money for expansion plans in the future as more and more money is needed for maintenance. Ten years out, there is no money to expand or widen highways, he said.
That could change with additional revenue in the form of an increase in the gas tax, sales tax, or “some other kind of tax.”
“Basically, our gas tax hasn’t changed since 1992. That’s really the big story,” he said. “It’s tough on all of us. We all live it. We all drive the roads. It’s tough.”
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