Leaders Propose Toll Road To Bypass Payson

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Feeling the wait may be too long for a bypass to come to the Rim Country, some county leaders are advocating construction of a toll road bypassing Payson and Star Valley.

However, in order to have a toll road in the Rim Country or for anywhere in Arizona for that matter, the law would have to be changed by the Arizona State Legislature.

Gila County First District Supervisor Tommie Martin said she believes that law needs to be changed.

One rule in place in other states with toll roads is that there needs to be an alternative route for drivers not wanting to pay the toll fee. Martin said highways 260 and 87 would fit that criteria.

The advantage of having a toll road over a typical bypass would be the ability of a toll road to finance itself and the speed with which it could be built.

Martin said a private contractor would likely foot the bill for the road if it was determined the road would pay for itself over time.

She also said rather than waiting 20 to 25 years to be in the Arizona Department of Transportation cycle for a bypass, a toll road could be a reality in as little as five years.

The contractor would then be paid with money from tolls.

"We have the volume. There are no two ways around it," Martin said. The question is what kind of legal changes can be made so a toll road can be a choice for the area.

A toll road would follow the same route as the proposed bypass.

She said if the Rim Country could convince semi-trucks to take a toll road, it would do wonders for the main highways in and around Payson.

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Tommie Martin, Gila County First District Supervisor

"It's well worth looking into," Martin said.

She said the highways are close to a breaking point, especially for the holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Memorial Day, Labor Day and Independence Day.

Convincing the Legislature to change the law, Martin said, could be done with a lot of pre-work. She said the more people who come out in support of it, the better chance they have of changing the law quickly.

Gila County Board of Supervisors Chairman Joe Sanchez said he did not think a toll road or even a bypass would be something people in the area would embrace. Toll roads have been discussed in the communities of Prescott and Pinal County to no avail, he said.

"We need input from the community (and a comprehensive plan)," he said. "I would have to make sure the community wants it."

ADOT Director Victor Mendez said he thinks any option to help the increasing traffic flow should be considered.

He said if a community wanted to create a toll road, there is a provision in state statutes that allows it to do so.

A community wanting to create a toll road would submit a proposal to ADOT, who in turn would put it out to bid. The catch is that the entity creating the proposal would pay the complete costs to the winning bidder.

Payson Mayor Bob Edwards said it is his guess that a toll road is the way the Rim Country will proceed, because the funding would be much easier to get.

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Bob Edwards, Payson Mayor

He said he does not put much stock into the estimates that it would take 25 years to build a bypass for the Rim Country because of the pressure the communities could put on ADOT.

"A toll road is an option that we have to look at," Edwards said. "We know we are going to (pursue a bypass), and we will turn over all of the stones. It's a real item."

Maricopa County Supervisor Max Wilson, who is a supporter for toll roads in certain parts of the state, said the funding for toll roads could come from private industry. He said demand on the roadways is one reason toll roads are constructed.

"If we don't solve it, growth moves somewhere else," Wilson said.

Chris Tilley, who is the chair of the mayor's alternative route task force, said they are exploring everything right now.

"At this point, we are not saying ‘no' to anything," she said.

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