Beeline/Highway 260 Improvements On Hold

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Worried business owners blocked a plan Thursday to improve the intersection between highways 260 and 87.


The Payson Town Council tabled the plan after the owners of several businesses near the intersection complained that the highway lane changes would hurt their businesses.


The intersection improvement design, which was presented to the council by Tom Foster, district engineer for the Arizona Department of Transportation, would have established right-turn lanes on the eastbound lane of Longhorn Road, and on the southbound lane of the Beeline Highway.


The plan also called for the removal of the Highway 260 left-turn lanes that lead into the shopping centers between McDonald's and Taco Bell.


In his request to the council, Town Manager Rich Underkofler said the turn lanes should be abolished to decrease accidents in the area.


The plan also called for the eventual installation of a stoplight between the two retail centers by Country Kitchen and Wells Fargo Bank.


Speaking on behalf of the project, Foster told the council that often times, safety concerns spark such road projects.


"A lot of times, these projects are long overdue," he said. "In this case, although there are some safety issues out there, it's not to the point that we have to take action. But with traffic growing year after year... someday something will have to be done."


Gary Blau, a representative of McDonald's Corporation in Phoenix, said such drastic reconstruction would cut business at Payson's McDonald's by half.


A significant number of McDonald's customers are tourists heading west on Highway 260, returning from the Mogollon Rim, Blau said.


Additionally, the plan would likely include the extension of the median on Highway 87 just south of the intersection, Foster said.


That move would make it impossible for customers to turn into the restaurant parking lot from Highway 87.


"This building, for us, is at a transition point," Blau said. "We're talking with the town staff about possibly knocking it down, rebuilding, adding an indoor playland, making it more visually accessible... the effect of this entire improvement would be devastating... As it stands right now, this would pretty much kill us."


Dale Oestmann, who owns the property on the southwest corner of the intersection, by the Old Hopi House, also opposed the plan.


As drafted, the plan would have used part of Oestmann's property for the eastbound right-turn lane on Longhorn. Oestmann objected to losing a portion of his property, and said the turn-lane wouldn't alleviate traffic problems on the road anyway. The bottleneck that develops on Longhorn begins a block away from the intersection and not at his property, he said.


Putting an end to the debate, Town Attorney Sam Streichman told the council that his office had not yet received an intergovernmental agreement for the proposal from ADOT.


At that, councilmember Barbara Brewer moved to table the request until more information was available.

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