The concrete block foundations being constructed at several locations along Highway 87 are not bus stops, both Payson and Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) officials insist.
"They're not bus stops at all," Myron Robison, ADOT resident engineer said. "They're shade structures. They're just a spot where if a person is walking along and decides to sit a spell, he can pull over."
Because the town is currently undertaking a public transit study, some surmised that the ADOT structures were an early precursor of a fixed-route bus system.
"They really aren't bus stops," Payson Public Works Engineer LaRon Garrett said. They are pedestrian rest areas similar to the one north of Tyler Parkway."
Despite the timing -- while the public transit study is in progress -- Garrett says the two are totally unrelated.
"This has been going for two years, and the transit study just started in May," he said.
The project is part of an ADOT grant and is costing the town nothing.
"ADOT is running the whole thing," Garrett said. "It's a state highway enhancement grant they were given to do this work, and there will be five or six (rest areas) from the casino to Highway 260."
So far work has begun next to McDonald's, Big O Tires, the Gila County complex and south of Mandarin House Restaurant. Also included in the enhancement grant is landscaping and a new town entrance sign.
"The landscaping really amounts to improving sidewalk that's cracked and putting in a few decorative boulders and decomposed granite in different areas," Robison said.
"The sign is a big, massive thing -- 16 feet wide by 4 feet high. It has the town logo with the squiggly tree and then it'll say, ‘Welcome to Arizona Rim Country' with cast-in lettering set into the face."
Town Councilor Judy Buettner, a moving force behind the transit study, urged those who are worried about bus stops to attend the planning sessions and let their views be known.
"We haven't made up our minds, so those people need to show up," she said. "That's what the whole thing is about: to determine where do you want (the busses) to go -- the hospital, the college, shopping centers."
The public transit study is expected to be completed by November 2004. A second open house will be held in the fall to present the findings and recommendations of the study.
For more information, call Garrett at (928) 474-5242 or Rob Bohannan, transportation planner for Lima & Associates (the consulting firm doing the study), at (602) 331-0600.