Important note to those residents of north Payson who are holding their breath, waiting for the planned Houston Mesa Road realignment and reconstruction to become a reality:
The only developments since the project was first approved and announced by the U.S. Forest Service last January, said Rod Byers of the Payson Ranger District office, are that "We've finished the environmental analysis, and we're moving forward with the design. But the eventual realignment of that road is subject to whenever funding is available, and there is nothing on the foreseeable horizon that would make that funding available to us."
The segment of the road scheduled for improvement about two miles in length and affecting about 12 acres stretches from the first crossing to the third crossing of East Verde River.
The decision to realign the road, which came from Tonto National Forest Supervisor Karl P. Siderits, was the basis for a funding request through the Forest Service or Gila County.
Authorization for the project sprang from an environmental assessment, made available to the public in February 1999, which analyzed the effects of rebuilding the road.
Based on that assessment, required by the National Environmental Policy Act, Sideritz wanted in part to eliminate the two existing low-water river crossings, which he said would reduce water pollution resulting from oil, antifreeze and other hazardous fluids being washed off the underside if vehicles.
While an asphalt surfacing of the existing alignment was begun in October 1999 by Gila County to reduce maintenance and air quality concerns, realignment should further reduce dust kicked up by road use and maintenance, Sideritz reported in his original announcement.
All of those plans, however, remain in limbo until a funding source is found.
"If and when (the realignment) happens, the first phase would be to design the two bridges and the segments of roads between them, and the second phase would be actual construction," Byers said. "But right now we don't have a clue as to when the funding will be available. It could be anywhere from two to 10 years."