The intersection at the Beeline and Highway 260 isn't making the grade.
Payson's central intersection has been given D and E ratings during peak drive times out of an A through F grade system used by traffic engineers to measure how efficiently roadways handle traffic. An average of nearly 40,000 vehicles pass through the intersection each day.
Now, town and state planners are looking at the possibility of adding three more turn lanes to the intersection of Highway 260 and the Beeline to keep traffic flowing freely -- and improve it to a passing grade.
Early plans would add one more turn lane from the Beeline east to 260, another from Longhorn Road north to the Beeline and an additional turn lane from the Beeline south to Longhorn.
Payson Town Engineer LaRon Garrett said plans should be finalized in about six months. Because of the Arizona Department of Transportation's heavy financial involvement, work won't begin on the project until ADOT's next fiscal year, sometime between July 1999 and June 2000. Garrett declined to estimate the cost to the town at this time.
The Town of Payson would pay for 25 percent of the project and ADOT the other 75 percent. Only Longhorn Road is under Payson's control. The Beeline and Highway 260 are under ADOT's jurisdiction.
The proposed changes came out of a study of the intersection conducted by ADOT engineers. ADOT representative Bob LaJeunesse was out of the office this week and could not be reached for comment.
Road improvements planned for Payson over the next years are not limited to the Beeline-260 intersection. ASL Consulting Engineers of Phoenix was hired by the town to research other traffic hot spots.
The firm is conducting a small area transportation survey, examining the Payson traffic situation as a whole. The study began six months ago and ends in February.
George Flannigan, of ASL, was in charge of the study and said it will be used to give town planners an idea of current and future trouble spots and a list of projects to look at in the future. Information in the report is usable for up to 10 years.
The results show the number of cars on town roads has doubled when compared to a study conducted 10 years ago. Using the findings to calculate predictions over the next 20 years, Flannigan said traffic along some streets will likely double or triple.
Flannigan said he didn't need a crystal ball to see the traffic trends on the intersection. His math says another 20 years will mean a 40- to 50-percent increase over current traffic volume.
"We're looking at ways to deal with the demand people put on those streets," Flannigan said.
The study's recommendations come in large part from monitoring 24-hour traffic volumes at 30 to 40 locations around town.
One idea is to build a bypass road from the Mazatzal Casino on Highway 87 to Highway 260 near Star Valley. But that won't be all the help the town needs because most people want to stop in Payson, Flannigan said.
Flannigan said Payson's growing pains are a result of both easier access to the town and more drivers taking advantage of it.
"What we're seeing is rapid growth in both community population and through traffic," he said.
He said some of that effect is due to the widening of Highway 87 south of Payson to the Valley.
Garrett said recommendations from ASL engineers will be used to target specific areas that need help, rather than to take on all the town's traffic dilemmas at once.
"A lot can be done," he said, "but the constraint is always money."
The ASL preliminary recommendations will be available to the public at the Payson Public Library and the Payson Town Hall in the first or second week of January. After it meets with the town council's approval, a final draft will be ready in February.