Leaders Divided Over Beeline

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When the last four-lane stretch of the Beeline Highway fully opens in May, it will increase motorist safety and reduce the driving time between Payson and the Valley.

But local leaders are divided in their predictions about how the new highway will affect Payson.

"It's going to greatly improve safety conditions for all of us on that drive down there to get off that narrow, crooked road," Payson Mayor Ray Schum said.

Beth Myers, owner of Tall Pines Real Estate, said it will be nice to shave 10 minutes off the drive between Payson and Phoenix, but she doesn't expect it to shift Payson's economy into high gear.

"You have to be realistic," she said. "It will be nice for those of us who use it, but that isn't what will make Payson better. What will make Payson better is stopping here and spending money."

Schum is more optimistic.

"It should increase our sales tax as people from the Valley find it more convenient to come up here," he said. "But I also hope it stimulates our program of economic development."

Vice Mayor Dick Wolfe sees the completion of Highway 87 as a mixed blessing.

"Hopefully, it will bring more visitors' money to Payson, but it will also increase traffic through town. Hopefully some of these visitors will also stay longer if we improve Main Street and other areas of town. The downside though is increased traffic, at least until we get a bypass."

For Cliff Potts, former mayor, real estate broker, and chairman of the Northern Gila County Highways Commission, the completion of the Beeline is a long mission finally accomplished.

"My introduction to politics was working to get the Beeline built," he said. "I've worked for 16 years on that project."

When the last section of the new highway opens, Potts said, it won't open the floodgates to more traffic.

"We'll see a little more traffic than we've seen with the completion of other phases, but I believe a lot of people have already relocated here in anticipation of the completion of the highway."

The Highway 260 widening project between Payson and Heber, on the other hand, will have a significant impact on the local economy and traffic in town, he said.

But while the Rim country's business and political leaders are taking a wait-and-see attitude regarding the Beeline's impact on the Rim country, they realize the completion of the project is a significant milestone for the area.

"It represents a major investment in Payson and the Rim country," Tom Kaleta, CEO of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, said.

Schum, who will appear at the highway dedication ceremony April 24, said, "I just think it's a great achievement. I predict it will turn out to be a wonderful thing for the town in a number of ways."

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