Transit Plan Maps Town's Future Movement

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If you've ever waited to get onto South Beeline Highway on a Friday afternoon or wanted an easier, safer, more direct way to get from point A to point B in town, this one's for you.


ASL Consulting Engineers completed a 12-month transportation study in May that looks at the future of the town, how it will be divided into residential and employment areas and how to get people from one place to another.


"Our goal was to update the (transportation) study that was done 13 years earlier," said ASL Project Director George Flanagan. "I guess the most important finding was what we were able to confirm with the people who live (in Payson). A lot of growth has happened -- a lot more is going to happen."


Although it may take a while to put some of the findings of the consulting firm into effect, the first hurdle has been cleared: Payson Planning and Zoning commissioners are recommending the Town Council adopt the Payson Area Transportation Study as part of the town's general plan.


The commissioners approved the 106-page draft Monday, after looking at the short-term, medium-range and long-term projects through 2020 that are based on projected growth rates for the town.


Planning and Zoning Chairman Dick Wolfe called the document impressive. "It certainly takes us into the next millennium as far as transportation for the town goes," he said.


Wolfe said he was also impressed with the $84 million price tag for the various projects. "But their study did identify state and federal funding sources available for these kinds of things," he said. "Hopefully, the council will follow up on these."


Construction of a southeast bypass in the third and final phase of the plan will cost about $40 million. The project, which would be paid for by ADOT funds, is expected to be a huge undertaking because of the land involved and social and environmental concerns.


In earlier public meetings, people agreed that a bypass would ease some of the town's traffic problems, but they also told planners, "not in my back yard."


Flanagan said a lot of people mistakenly believe that a southeast bypass will solve the problems on the Beeline Highway. He said the bypass is just part of the solution for traffic in the south end of town.


"In terms of dollar for dollar, a lot of people will be a lot better off doing $5 million worth of work in the short-term," he said. "We need to get down to business on Highway 87."


Flanagan said there are other things that can be done to improve the south side of town. State and federal transportation enhancement grants could provide 90 to 95 percent of the funding.


Improvements such as landscaped medians and gateway projects "to make roads prettier" could also be combined with the Green Valley Redevelopment District.


"A gateway could be anything," Flanagan said. "It could be as simple as flag poles, gas lamps -- anything -- let the imagination go crazy. It has to be something the residents agree on. If we just come in and say, 'We're going to build medians in here,' nobody's going to like it. As momentum builds, the rest of the highway will improve. ADOT is fully behind this approach."


ASL consultants identified the town's traffic problems by looking at the current traffic counts and projections for the future for intersections along the Beeline Highway and Highway 260.


"We looked at them once on a daily basis and once during peak summer months," Flanagan said. "Memorial Day is a killer -- the highest of the year. We looked at morning traffic at 8 a.m. and evening traffic from 4:30-5:30 p.m.


Short-term projects to implement the plan through 2002 will cost $13 million and will be paid for through state and federal grants, developers and local funding.


Some projects, like the widening of Airport Road from Highway 87 to McLane Road, are already under way. Additional construction on Airport Road to widen the lanes, add sidewalks and bike paths, and realign the road south at the airport, is in the works.


A design for a southeast bypass for the town should be completed by 2002. The engineering report, estimated to cost $800,000, will be funded by ADOT. Construction of the bypass may not be completed before 2020 and it depends upon finding a location for the road.


Flanagan said the proposed bypass will likely be built somewhere between Round Valley and the Mazatzal Casino and will go east of Star Valley. "We didn't guess exactly where that would go," he said. "There are a lot of engineering and environmental concerns."


Once an area for the bypass has been identified, the process includes at least a dozen public meetings, Flanagan said. "The first part of the process is talking to ADOT -- it's in the works. But we're not going to see dirt moving on that for a while."


Other long-range plans, for 2007-2020, include adding more traffic signals and roadways around town.


Mid-term projects from 2002 to 2007 include improvements for traffic in the southeast area of town, sidewalks by Frontier School, intersection work at Aero Drive and the Beeline Highway, widening streets, and adding a traffic signal at Mud Springs Road at Highway 260.


An extension of road from Highway 87 to the hospital, a continuation of Main Street east to the hospital, will be paid for by the developer.


ASL Consulting Engineers based their recommendations on a 1986 ADOT study that was broader in scope. The latest, more detailed study cost $70,000 and was paid for by the town and ADOT.


"It's a pretty big document," Wolfe said. "I thought it was well done and well researched. We certainly got our money's worth."


Flanagan said he will present the study at the next Payson Town Council meeting Thursday, Aug. 26. "The final draft will be done in September, presuming the council approves it," he said.

Short term Payson transportation projects


• Addition of a traffic signal at Highway 87 at the Wal-Mart Supercenter;


• Improvements of the intersection at Highways 87 and 260;


• Enhancement of the roadway on South Highway 87 and Main Street;


• Improvements to intersection at Highway 260 and Manzanita, and


• Addition of a traffic signal at the intersection of Highway 260 and Tyler Parkway.

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