Second Roundabout Proposed

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Payson could get another roundabout if the town staff has its way at the regular town council meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday.

The council will ask the Arizona Department of Transportation to put a roundabout rather than a conventional traffic signal at the intersection of Airport Road/Airline Road and Highway 87. The benefits cited by Public Works Engineer LaRon Garrett include:

  • Experience to date with the town's lone roundabout at Tyler Parkway, Highway 87 and The Home Depot. Garrett noted that after some initial confusion, drivers seem to be catching on to the roundabout yield concept. Accidents have been minimal since it opened.

"Since the Tyler Parkway roundabout fully opened in mid-May, it has functioned as it was intended to," Garrett said.

  • A roundabout does not require the additional right-turn lanes or lane realignments of a conventional signal.
  • Roundabouts allow all traffic to flow more continuously without the stopping required by a conventional stoplight.
  • While roundabouts are not pedestrian-friendly, few pedestrians cross the street at this intersection.

Bring back the elk

Roundabouts dominate the agenda Thursday evening, with the council expected to ask ADOT to reconsider its decision to kill the brass elk at The Home Depot Roundabout. The agency believes the elk, part of a "gateway to Payson" project to be funded by private donations, would distract motorists and encourage pedestrians to cross into the traffic circle to pose for pictures.

"They suggested placing the other items of the original landscape plan (boulders, trees, plants and the town logo) in the roundabout, but to relocate the elk to the southeast corner of the intersection," Garrett said. "Here the elk would be on a high point and still add to the overall appearance of the roundabout."

But Jeanie Langham, who is leading the Payson Gateway Project, said the elk goes in the traffic circle or it goes nowhere. She and Garrett noted that artwork is common in roundabouts throughout the nation and the world.

In the supporting documentation provided to the council, Garrett includes a memo from Scott Ritchie, president of California-based Roundabouts & Traffic Engineering on the subject of roundabout landscaping. Ritchie said that "statues, large trees, large rocks, and historically relevant monuments should be used" in roundabouts.

The council will decide whether to ask ADOT to reconsider its decision or to proceed with a landscaping plan that does not include the brass elk.

Rodeo grounds consultant

The council is considering renewing a contract with Valley-based Nielson Fackler Planning and Development (NFPD) to provide ongoing consultation services throughout the development of the hotel and conference center at the Payson Event Center. The original contract with NFPD expired when it took the developer longer than expected to line up a partner.

The developer, Hospitality Support Group (HSG) recently paid the town $30,000 required under a memo of understanding between the two parties.

Key elements of the project include:

  • A 150-room hotel with an indoor pool, fitness center, game area, and an area dedicated to Payson history.
  • A 1,000-seat amphitheater that would be home to concert series and other musical events.
  • A 7,000-square-foot conference center that includes a grand ballroom and is capable of handling meetings of up to 500 people.
  • A cowboy-themed steakhouse restaurant and saloon with sawdust on the floor and "a flavor of history."
  • Covering and enclosing the existing rodeo grounds.

Westerly connection

The council is also expected to award the construction contract for phase one of the Westerly Drive Improvement District -- extending Westerly Drive from just east of the Messinger Payson Funeral Home across the American Gulch to Main Street.

A 75-space public parking lot was dropped from the project when the initial bids came in too high, and when several councilors objected to the town funding a parking lot on Main Street.

"They included the parking lot, but it's in phase two, and who knows when phase two would ever be done," Town Manager Fred Carpenter said.

"The area that was going to be the parking lot, we are going to get that ready for a parking lot," he said. "It's just going to be dirt, but it can be used as a parking lot, for example, for the car show or the electric light parade."

Besides providing much-needed parking for Main Street businesses, the district was originally formed so a new access road could be provided between Main Street and Aero Drive that is not impeded by flood waters during periods of heavy precipitation.

A small portion of the project needed to provide fire protection and access to Canal Senior Apartments is now being constructed as a separate project.

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