A winding stretch of highway near Kohl's Ranch that has been the site of half a dozen rollover accidents in the past 15 months is scheduled for realignment -- but not for another three years.
Lewis Hill, a steep section of Highway 260 with hairpin curves just west of Kohl's Ranch, will be realigned as part of a $127.3-million highway-widening project set to begin in 2000.
The most recent accident on the hill closed the highway earlier this month for four hours when a tractor-trailer overturned, spilling enough gravel onto the highway to block traffic. Other accidents near that spot have hurt more than half a dozen people, paralyzing two, Christopher-Kohl's Fire Department officials have reported.
In 1997, ADOT officials recorded 73 accidents with 44 injuries and two fatalities on Highway 260 between Star Valley and Colcord Road. In 1998, through September, the agency recorded 44 accidents with 16 injuries and no fatalities in the same area.
The realignment project will widen Highway 260 to four lanes from Star Valley to Colcord Road just below the Rim. The highway is already four lanes from Payson to Star Valley and from Colcord Road to the top of the Rim.
Arizona Department of Transportation officials scheduled the highway for widening to accommodate the growing number of Valley residents who flock to the high country to escape the heat during the summer, ADOT Community Relations Officer Walt Gray said.
"We have all these two-lane highways around the state, and with the growth of Arizona and the increasing amount of tourism, we have to provide wider highways to accommodate the greater volume of traffic," he said.
In 1997, ADOT recorded an average of 5,342 vehicles a day on Highway 260. By comparison, the department recorded an average of 7,496 vehicles a day that year on the Beeline near the Roosevelt Lake turnoff at State Route 188.
Highway 260 will be widened in stages, starting in 2000 with a 2.9-mile stretch near Preacher Canyon. That stage is scheduled to be complete by the fall of 2001, and the final stage, a four-mile stretch near Lion Springs Road, is set to be finished by late 2006.
Construction on the three-mile Kohl's Ranch stage, which includes Lewis Hill, will start in early 2002 and is expected to be complete by late 2003.
When the 18-mile project is complete, Highway 260 will be a four-lane divided highway from Payson to the top of the Rim.
Highway 260 Construction Schedule
Projects are listed in order of construction.
1. Preacher Canyon
Start: early 2000; finish: fall 2001
Cost: $26.5 million; length: 2.9 miles
2. Christopher Creek
Start: spring 2001; finish: late 2002
Cost: $31.2 million; length 2.9 miles
3. Kohl's Ranch
Start: early 2002; finish: late 2003
Cost: $23.1 million; length 2 miles
4. Little Green Valley
Start: spring 2003; finish: late 2004
Cost: $14.6 million; 2.9 miles
5. Doubtful Canyon
Start: early 2004; finish: late 2005
Cost: $17.1 million; length 3.5 miles
6. Lion Springs
Start: early 2005; finish: Late 2006
Cost $14.8 million; length 4 miles