The Rim country needs to make a radical change in the way it deals with transportation issues, according to Cliff Potts, chairperson of the Northern Gila County Highways Committee.
In fact, Potts says that his group, an ad hoc committee which has been providing the Arizona Department of Transportation with input on local transportation issues for 20 years, ought to be disbanded. What should take its place, he believes, is a regional transportation planning organization backed by local governments.
"What's apparent to us is that communities like Prescott, Prescott Valley, Flagstaff and Yuma are getting their projects because they work in a concerted effort with their entire region, with their local governments participating, putting up dollars to help leverage and seed projects so ADOT is encouraged to channel money into them," Potts said. "That's where the major construction dollars are going."
Potts cited the proposed bypass around Payson, his committee's top priority for the past several years, as an example of a project that ADOT has left to wither on the vine.
"For years, we've asked ADOT to do a study that will find a way to facilitate traffic in and around Payson, but it's fallen on deaf ears," he said. "They just don't have the resolve to jump into a politically contested issue that they really don't have funding for anyway."
Potts cited the widening of Highway 260 as another example.
"When we got Highway 260 marked completely out of the program and that money went elsewhere, it was even more obvious," Potts said. "Our little committee has outlived its usefulness. What I'm advocating is for the local governments to form some type of a transportation planning organization that would have the capacity to put funding into the early stages of projects. Local governments need to get together and figure that out."
Potts' committee provided updates on the following projects:
Highways 87 and 260 intersection improvements
"Primarily, they're redoing the medians," Potts said. "They're going to close off the section of the median that turns into Taco Bell and the section that turns into Legacy Furnishings and expand the storage capacity on that left turn signal (onto southbound Highway 87). McDonald's is still not happy, but they're going to have to deal with it as it comes."
A second left-hand turn lane onto northbound Highway 87 and a right turn lane onto southbound Highway 87 will also be added. The project is supposed to start by mid-April and be finished by the end of May or the first part of June.
Highway 260 widening
The Christopher Creek bypass is projected to be completed by fall, nine months to a year earlier than projected. The Kohl's Ranch portion is currently funded, and $21.7 million has been returned to the project to fund the Little Green Valley portion, although construction is not scheduled to begin until 2008. Funding has been pulled from the Doubtful Canyon and Lion Springs portions because of the state's financial problems.
"Those are the projects they had scheduled in the program and then took them out," Potts said.