"We're well on our way to improving the highway system in the Rim country," State Transportation Board Member Ingo Radicke said at a media briefing Thursday at Payson Town Hall.
Accompanied by Arizona Department of Transportation Director Mary Peters and other ADOT officials, Radicke outlined the various highway projects that affect the Rim country. Radicke's district includes Gila County.
Heading the list is the first phase of a $3.7 million, 10-mile southbound resurfacing project on the Beeline just south of Payson. The project, scheduled to begin Monday, includes shoulder widening on Ox Bow Hill to increase safety.
According to Radicke, the work on Ox Bow Hill, known as "Corvair Curve" to many Rim country residents, will ultimately provide 8-foot shoulders adjacent to the slow lane and 4-foot shoulders next to the high-speed lane. Shoulders on both sides are currently only 1 to 2 feet wide.
"The southbound shoulder widening will make it easier for trucks and other large vehicles to negotiate Ox Bow Hill and will give motorists with vehicle problems a space to pull off the highway," Radicke said.
A key feature of the project will be a southbound traffic control station at the top of Ox Bow Hill during working hours, said Tom Foster, district engineer for ADOT's Prescott District.
"The Department of Public Safety will stop all trucks and make full Level I brake inspections to protect work crews and assure compliance with DPS safety requirements," Foster said.
Some lane closures will be necessary while drainage culverts are being extended, and southbound delays of about 15 minutes will be necessary beginning in mid-September when blasting begins on hillsides close to the highway.
Also scheduled for the fall is the replacement of guardrail adjacent to all slopes to match the latest federal standards and to increase safety, said Myron Robison, ADOT resident engineer in Payson.
"In all, about three miles of guardrail will be installed," Robison said.
Resurfacing of the southbound lanes of the Beeline Highway from milepost 241 to 251 will begin in mid- to late October and will be completed by approximately Thanksgiving. "Traffic will be reduced to one lane during the paving," Robison said.
Highway 87 north
Other projects announced at the media briefing included the completion of an initial corridor location study to improve Highway 87 north of Payson by building a four-lane highway or upgrading the two-lane roadway with additional passing lanes.
The next step is a design concept report to look at cost and right-of-way needs and to recommend a preferred alignment.
The new northbound lanes of the Beeline Highway north of Sunflower should be open to traffic in December, Radicke announced. The southbound lanes will be completed in the spring, completing the four-lane divided highway for the entire 80-mile stretch from Mesa to Payson.
"The new highway has won several major national and state environmental awards," Peters said.
Primary construction will start after Labor Day on the first contract in a six-project program to widen 21 miles of Highway 260 to a four-lane divided highway between Star Valley and Colcord Road.
The first phase of the project will accomplish the widening of 3.1 miles in one of the most dangerous parts of the highway, the Preacher Canyon area about seven miles east of Payson. Completion of the entire project is expected to take two years.
ADOT also announced plans to initiate a study of a Payson bypass in two or three years. The bypass study will involve development of an environmental impact statement, which will include the economic impact of the bypass.
"There will be lots of opportunities for citizen input," Radicke said, "and we will certainly take into consideration the concerns of the local business community."
ADOT officials also updated two current projects that will improve the route from Payson to Roosevelt Lake and Globe.
Preliminary work has begun on the last realignment and widening project on Highway 188 between Highway 87 and Roosevelt Lake. The project will be completed in March 2001.
The first realignment project on Highway 188 between US 60 and Roosevelt Lake is nearly complete. The first four miles of this straight, all-weather road opened to traffic Monday, with the remaining 2.7 miles scheduled to be completed in late September or early October.
Tyler Parkway signal
A new traffic signal will be installed later this year on Highway 260 at Tyler Parkway. The developer of The Rim Club will pay all costs.
Beeline-Highway 260 intersection modifications
Finally, ADOT officials announced plans to add right turn lanes and make signal modifications at the intersection of the Beeline and Highway 260 in 2003.
At that time, ADOT also will take a second look at a traffic signal at the Payson Village Center on Highway 260 east. A study a year ago indicated that the Payson Village Center entrance did not yet meet the criteria for a signal.