Arizona Gov. Jane Hull and state transportation officials are looking for some vision and imagination -- and they're asking for our help.
In fact, the director of the Arizona Department of Transportation and members of the Governor's Vision 21 Task Force were in Payson Wednesday to hear rural residents' concerns about transportation, and our ideas for addressing them.
Members of the task force seemed genuinely interested in hearing about what residents and officials from Arizona hinterlands had to say during the 2 1/2-hour forum at Payson Town Hall.
It is encouraging to see state officials pay sincere attention to the problems and thinking of those who live outside of Maricopa and Pima counties. Too often our interests are ignored in a system focused on the state's needy urban areas.
Now, it is our responsibility to respond to this invitation from state officials.
The 31-member task force was appointed by the governor in February to study long-range transportation needs, determine costs, suggest funding sources and recommend priorities. The group includes representation from rural counties, including Ingo Radicke, a long-time member of the Gila County Planning & Zoning Commission.
Several concerns come readily to mind about the future of transportation in the Rim country:
- We must find some way to reduce the summer weekend gridlock that afflicts the Beeline and Highway 260 in Payson. A bypass seems to be an obvious solution, but that brings problems of its own. It should not become another opportunity for strip development.
- As the ever-growing number of Payson retirees become unable to drive themselves around, they will need some kind of dial-a-ride service to help them get to grocery stores and doctor's appointments.
- A way must be found to maintain the small-town integrity of Pine and Strawberry as plans are made to widen Highway 87 north of Payson.
- Shuttle service between the Rim country and the Valley -- both on the highway and in the air -- should be encouraged.
These are all issues that need to be a part of the governor's Vision 21 Task Force report. The voice of Rim country residents must be heard.
To make that happen, send your comments to Stephanie Bondeson, Vision 21 Task Force Project Manager, at 602-712-7865, firstname.lastname@example.org, 206 S. 17th Ave., 320B, Phoenix, AZ.