Celebrating The Open Road

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It's been more than 30 years since work began on Highway 87, the Rim country's "beeline" to the Valley of the Sun.

And Tuesday, on a windy spring morning, hundreds of state and local dignitaries, members of the Arizona Department of Transportation and guests gathered near Sunflower for the official dedication of the near-completed four-lane road.

"The completion of the new Beeline Highway is such an important and historic event for those of us who travel between Phoenix and the Rim country," Gov. Jane Hull said, "whether it's for work or for pleasure."

When the highway's last four-lane stretch near Sunflower is completed in May, it will shave 10 minutes off the trip between Payson and Phoenix, which now takes between 60 and 90 minutes.

"These improvements will mean many things to many people," Payson Mayor Ray Schum said. "For the thousands who travel its route daily, it will represent a much safer and a more efficient means of travel."

While the dedication ceremony celebrated the completion of the $55.6-million Beeline project, there's still a little work to be done before it's finally done.

For the next couple of weeks, crews will be working to finish the southbound lanes of the new four-lane stretch through Kitty Joe Canyon the new road that bypasses the Sunflower area.

In the meantime, all traffic will be routed to the northbound lanes. ADOT officials said the entire highway should be completed by mid-May.

Initially, the speed limit will remain at 55 mph, as it was on the two-lane road the divided highway will replace, but ADOT will likely raise the speed limit after construction is finished, said Walt Gray, a public information officer for ADOT.

Also on hand for the dedication were members of the Northern Gila County Transportation Committee, Secretary of State Betsy Bayless, Fountain Hills Mayor Sharon Morgan, Tonto Apache Tribe Chair Vivian Burdette, President Clinton Pattea of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Karl Siderits of the Tonto National Forest, State Transportation Board member Ingo Radicke, and Mary Peters, director of ADOT.

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