The town council has approved a request for the Arizona Department of Transportation to explore the possibility of putting in another roundabout at the intersection of Highway 87 and Airport Road/Airline Lane.
The town's first roundabout, at Highway 87 and Tyler Parkway, had a polarizing effect on the town. But because people have gotten used to it and a lot of people opposed to the roundabout now favor it, there's good reason to discuss the possibility of another one, said Public Works Engineer LaRon Garrett.
The issue was before the council at its July 28 meeting.
"Initially we talked about a signal (at Airport Road) because that's all that was ever done," Garrett said. "Now this is another opportunity because the roundabout moves traffic so much better."
The biggest concern among council members was that, unlike the Tyler Parkway roundabout, children would be crossing the highway at the intersection on their way to Payson Elementary School, which is on Airline Road.
Children so young move erratically and could easily dart into traffic at the wrong time if not given the clear signal from a traffic light, Mayor Barbara Brewer said.
"I, for one, don't want to see another roundabout so close (to Tyler Parkway)," she said. "I think the people that need to travel from the other side of Airport Road need some safety by having a crosswalk."
But Councilor Robert Henley said he had seen very little pedestrian traffic through the intersection and that much of the feedback he'd received from townspeople showed they were happy with the first roundabout and would probably be interested in another.
Garrett admitted that a roundabout would not stop the traffic in the same manner as a traffic signal, but said pedestrian traffic at the intersection has actually gone down since the school district lines were redrawn a few years ago.
In response to the mayor's and other council member's concerns, Councilor George Barriger suggested that the town include in its request that ADOT explore alternatives that would balance both traffic flow and pedestrian safety, such as a roundabout/traffic signal combination.
Councilor Tim Fruth also expressed concern about children crossing the street where traffic does not stop. But because roundabouts do help with traffic flow it would be a good idea to explore them as options for other places in town, like the entrance to Mazatzal Casino, he said.
Simply adding a traffic signal at Highway 87 and Airport Road/ Airline Lane would be cheaper than building a roundabout, Garrett said. But the intersection would require three additional turn lanes, making the cost of the two projects about the same, he said.
A roundabout would also cost less in the long run because there's no monthly electric bill and they require "almost zero maintenance," Garrett said.
In other business, the council also voted to:
- Put off a decision on awarding a contract to Intermountain West Civil Constructors, Inc. The company won the bidding process to extend Westerly Road from Main Street to Aero Drive with a bid of $737,691, $49,000 below the town's estimate. But an attorney for Dennis and Marjorie Pierce addressed the council with a concern that the couple is being asked to pay too much for the improvement given the limited benefit they would receive. Henley said he felt like the issue was being addressed at the "final hour" of the project.
"I guess I would have liked to hear this beforehand as opposed to hearing this tonight for the first time," Henley said. The council is expected to revisit the issue Aug. 11.
- Approve an increase in water fees and service charges. "It's important to know this is not a water rate increase," said Buzz Walker, director of public works.
He added that the majority of the town will not be affected by the increase because the fees focus on initiating or canceling service, or damaging equipment belonging to the water department. "We need to make sure the public is getting a fair return on their investment," Walker said.
- Renew a consulting contract with Nielsen Fackler Planning and Development, Inc. The firm will provide consulting for the town and the developer Hospitality Support Group as they move forward with building a hotel, amphitheater and building a cover for the rodeo arena at the Payson Event Center.