Going In Circles



Those of us for whom The Home Depot roundabout is a multiple daily experience sometimes forget that a lot of you Rimaroos have little reason to head up Highway 87 on a regular basis unless you have a leaky faucet or are feeling suicidal.

Many of you, therefore, have probably had only minimal encounters with the latest addition to the Payson streetscape. If you fall into that category, we want you to know you are missing out on an experience that just gets more bizarre by the day.

It all began when the Arizona Department of Travesties (ADOT) decided to build the thing instead of installing a conventional traffic signal in the first place. Then they waited way too long to build it, messing up The Home Depot and the lives of all nearby residents for what seemed an eternity.

Then they opened it in the peak of the tourist season, just in time for a whole host of city "hickers," people inexperienced in our newfangled country ways, to have to negotiate it. As a general rule, simple city friends, be wary of any traffic control device that requires another traffic control device (those portable flashing warning signs placed at either end each weekend) to tell you how to use it.

Now ADOT has decided that a brass elk in the center of the roundabout is not exactly a good idea. You remember the brass elk -- the one that Jeanie Langham and a group of volunteers calling themselves the Payson Gateway Project wanted to erect as part of a northern gateway to Payson.

The larger-than-life brass elk was going to stand atop a rock outcropping, with native landscaping and the Payson town logo inside the traffic circle. It would be a darned sight more attractive, Langham reasoned, than the southern gateway to Payson -- basically the Sonic burger joint.

But after first being told the gateway was a go (the town council even passed a resolution to that effect), she was recently told that while the rocks and landscaping are OK, the elk is not, because -- get this -- it's art.

"Even though Washington, D.C. and other states have roundabouts with artwork that's huge, and even though the Arc de Triomphe is in a roundabout, in Payson we can't handle an elk," Langham said in disbelief.

ADOT first told her that motorists negotiating the roundabout would gawk at the elk and be distracted. Then they said that pedestrians would want to be photographed with the elk and put themselves in harm's way trying to get across to the circle.

But ADOT did have a solution -- to put the elk on the side of the road.

Let's see if we've got this straight. An elk in the center of the roundabout would be a distraction to motorists, but an elk by the side of the roundabout would not?

But as we noted right up front, unless you have a leaky faucet or suicidal tendencies you've been missing all the fun. And by golly this roundabout belongs to all of us taxpayers, so that's got to change.

What we're suggesting is that you get grandma and the kids and Fido together, pack up a big picnic lunch, and come on out and spend some time in the center of the roundabout.

In fact, we think maybe the town should hold a concert-in-the-roundabout series out there or, better yet, an Easter egg hunt. (We're guessing that would keep the big kids from being too aggressive.)

Of course, we'd be the first to tell you to be careful crossing the roundabout. And once you get across you also have to be careful about that red brick-looking sidewalk that rings the roundabout circle.

You see, it may look like a sidewalk, but it's really not.

It's really a place for 18-wheelers to go when they are unable to negotiate the roundabout. Really.

Which makes us wonder if we've finally hit on the real problem. The roundabout is such a screwed up mess, what with portable signs flashing directions and fake sidewalks for 18-wheelers and all, that ADOT's liability would be simply horrendous if anybody gets hurt out there.

What we seem to have here is yet another example of government in action. And now we can see, up close and personal, how we can end up going to war over weapons of mass destruction that don't exist, and how Payson town staffers can make six figure incomes by comparing our humble community to, oh, say, Gilbert (at a time when Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano only takes home $95,000).

But here's the good news. The next roundabout just might be coming to an Airport Road near you.

Think they'll get it right this time?

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