Payson played host to officials from all over the state at a meeting of the state transportation board. Since the board convened in Payson, it was an opportunity for town and county officials as well as members of the public to lobby for high-dollar transportation projects.
At least three individuals raised the issue of a bypass to decrease the congestion on the Beeline Highway, especially during the summer months. The smooth, four-lane highway that now leads to the Valley has also increased the number of motorists that come up the hill to cool off.
Town Engineer LaRon Garrett spoke on behalf of this project before the board, as did Cliff Potts.
"We will need an alternate route around Payson," Garrett said.
Potts referred to a transportation study done by the state of the traffic on the Beeline Highway.
"A loop road is one of the solutions that would facilitate the flow of traffic," Potts said.
Longtime resident Jim Winter recalled a time when he would pass two cars driving the Beeline Highway. He now sees the road as a potential throughway for travelers heading to a host of nationwide destinations. Winter encouraged the board to consider some type of bypass to divert the increasing traffic around the town.
Yet some business owners feel a bypass would reduce patronage and hamper commerce.
Diana Sexton, owner of the Beeline Cafe spoke against a bypass. Sexton has experienced a healthy increase in business and credits the surge of visitors who drive the Beeline Highway.
Other transportation issues were raised besides the bypass. There were a few references to the narrow, winding Highway 87 north that runs through the communities of Pine and Strawberry.
Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bob Ware asked the board to improve the signage for Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.
"There are many people who come to visit the park and end up passing it and going straight through to Pine," Ware said.
Robert Coldwell, owner of Payson Packaging on Bonita Street and the Beeline Highway, has a great view of the intersection that boasts the most accidents in town.
While Garrett has said that a left-hand arrow will soon be installed, there has been a delay due to a back-order of stoplights from the one company that manufactures them.
With another $100 million, a Hoover Dam bypass may come to fruition, according to one board member. This project would reduce travel time to Las Vegas, among other destinations. The cost will be shared by both Arizona and Nevada.