by Jim Keyworth
roundup staff reporter
Delays are expected next week in the Preacher Canyon area of Highway 260 as traffic is switched from the existing highway to the newly constructed eastbound alignment.
The majority of the delays should occur Tuesday, Aug. 14, from early morning until late at night.
"They will be constructing a tie-in to move traffic from the existing road over to the new roadway," Carol Oaks of Kaneen Advertising and Public Relations, said. Oaks' Tucson-based agency was hired by the Arizona Department of Transportation to keep the public informed.
"There will be pilot cars and people should expect delays of 25-45 minutes," Oaks said.
After the traffic switch is complete, delays will be minimal, although traffic will continue to be one lane in each direction until the westbound alignment is completed.
The first phase of the Highway 260 improvement project the $21 million section between mileposts 260 and 263 is nearing completion. All four lanes of the new divided highway should be open to the public in October, according to Jason Widman, project superintendent for D.H. Blattner & Sons, the general contractor on this phase of the project.
Highlights of the first phase include two massive bridges that span Preacher Canyon, one for eastbound lanes and one for westbound lanes. The existing highway drops down and through the canyon.
Motorists traveling in the area are asked to obey posted speed limit signs and be alert for construction equipment and personnel working along the highway. Vehicles over 12 feet wide must contact D.H. Blattner at 468-2004.
The project which consists of widening 50 miles of Highway 260 between Payson and Heber is expected to take 20 years to complete.
Bids are due Aug. 24 for the next phase of the project, a 5.3-mile stretch between mileposts 272 and 277 that will bypass Christopher Creek.