Motorists headed for The Home Depot or any place else that takes them past the new home improvement store can expect major traffic problems once the store opens Thursday morning.
The roundabout that the Arizona Department of Transportation decided was preferable to a traffic signal at Highway 87 and Tyler Parkway, will not be finished for at least two weeks.
"It's going to be called mass traffic jam," Payson Public Works Engineer LaRon Garrett said. "They're not even going to have the west half of the roundabout done by next Thursday."
With the main entrance to The Home Depot inaccessible, the only entrance and exit will be off Houston Mesa Road. There is no traffic signal at Houston Mesa and Highway 87.
Town Manager Fred Carpenter announced at the town council meeting last Thursday that the west half of the roundabout is supposed to be finished by April 8 and the east half by May 6. Garrett is less optimistic.
"(People are) going to have to use that little exit off Houston Mesa until they get (the roundabout) open, which will probably be the middle of April," he said.
Bob LaJeunesse, regional maintenance engineer for ADOT, was even less optimistic.
"I'm not exactly sure of a date," he said. "It should probably be within two months."
The delay was caused by several factors, according to Garrett.
"ADOT delayed (the contractor), then they had some internal delays, and then the weather hasn't been real good for them," he said. "It's just a number of things."
Shane Monahan, manager of The Home Depot, blamed it entirely on ADOT.
"ADOT didn't pass it soon enough," Monahan said. "We're not exactly thrilled that it's not done."
LaJeunesse said ADOT had good reason for taking its time.
"This is the first roundabout we've done in this district and the design review took longer because we want to get it done right," he said.
Carpenter said there isn't much motorists can do, but make the best of the situation. We can expect traffic snarls from time to time until the roundabout is complete, especially when the store opens, so patience is urged."
Monahan said there are actually two small entrances off Houston Mesa Road.
"There's one towards the back of the building and one towards the front," he said. "If there's a long line coming in the front one, I'd tell people to use the back of the building."
The store will be open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
A roundabout is a circular intersection with entering traffic yielding the right-of-way to circulating traffic.
While roundabouts have long been used in Europe and other parts of the world, they have only recently become common in the United States. In fact, the first modern roundabout was not installed in the U.S. until 1990, but today there are 800 in practically every state. The modern roundabout differs from rotaries or traffic circles because of three characteristics: the roundabout gives vehicles in the circular travel way the right-of-way; roundabouts are generally smaller than rotaries; roundabouts have a raised splitter island that slows speed just before entry.
The Payson Town Council recently approved a plan to make the center of the roundabout a "gateway to Payson" from the North.
"There is an area in the center 106 feet across and that's where they want to put this landscaping," Garrett said.
The design includes three-foot high metal letters spelling "Payson" and a large elk sculpture. The project will be paid for with private contributions.