A $4 million bundle of controversial road upgrades around Frontier Elementary School will provide smooth driving and a big bike trail boost -- at the cost of a year of homeowner headaches and town council debates.
The four connected projects along Bonita, St. Phillips, Frontier and Mud Springs roads will ultimately provide sidewalks and bike paths from Highway 87 to Highway 260 looping through some of the town's fast-growing neighborhoods -- while dramatically improving potholed, crumbling roads that haven't been upgraded in a quarter century. The projects will consume a major portion of the town's $3.5 million annual road building budget in the next two years.
However, Payson Mayor Bob Edwards continues to oppose the final piece of the roadway puzzle -- a $1-million, 1,000-foot extension of Mud Springs Road between Granite Dells and Highway 260 that will provide a major new outlet to the highway for the southern quarter of Payson.
Edwards opposes that extension on the grounds it will boost traffic near the elementary school. In a Dec. 17 e-mail newsletter, Edwards complained that the connection will make that stretch of road "the 87-260 Highway bypass and will be sending heavy Friday afternoon traffic by Frontier about the time the kids are walking home. If you are like me and oppose this, you might want to attend the meeting and let your feelings be known."
However, the big improvement in highway access convinced the Surface Transportation Advisory Committee to make that section of road its top priority.
The $1-million project would include a $500,000 round-about on Highway 260, similar to the one at Houston Mesa Road and Highway 87.
Town planners hope the state Department of Transportation will pay for half of the cost of that round-about. That should provide safe and ready access to the highway, diverting traffic from other, less safe highway entrances and improving traffic circulation through many neighborhoods, planners said.
The new road would probably carry 3,000 to 4,000 cars per day initially and projections call for about 7,000 cars per day by 2020. By comparison, Highway 260 now carries about 25,000 cars per day, Main Street about 8,000 and Frontier about 2,200, said Town Engineer LaRon Garrett.
The council should have another chance to debate the issue at its Jan. 10 meeting, when the town's roads department will seek approval of a $40,000 design contract.
Mud Springs Road Phase I
Meanwhile, drivers can now enjoy the smooth pavement on the just-completed $800,000 extension of Mud Springs Road from the elementary school to Granite Dells Road. The road extension includes a bike path, curbs, sidewalks and eventual access to Highway 260 for the rising traffic in the neighborhoods south of Highway 260 and east of the Beeline Highway. Mud Springs now ends at Granite Dells, diverting highway-bound traffic to the problematic Manzanita intersection, with limited "stacking" room for people waiting to turn onto the highway and half-dozen accidents per year, according to Garrett.
St. Phillips Project:
In addition, construction has started on the second of the four projects -- a 3,700-foot-stretch of Bonita, St. Phillips and Frontier streets leading to the front door of the elementary school.
The narrow, curbless streets haven't been rebuilt since the early 1980s, when codes called for a two-inch layer of asphalt over bare dirt, said Garrett.
Traffic that has now reached more than 3,000 cars per day and decades of freezing and thawing have turned the thin layer of asphalt into a patched, bone-jarring ordeal.
The rebuild will lay down four inches of asphalt on top of a 6-12 inch base and should last for 50 years, said Garrett.
Moreover, the project will protect homeowners from localized flooding with new curbs and provide a sidewalk on one side and five-foot-wide bike lanes on each side for residents -- especially kids heading for school.
The $1.1-million project has been in the regional road building pipeline for five years and will draw about $400,000 in federal highway money allocated through the state.
But homeowners will have to endure about five months of construction hassles.
Road crews from Empire Excavation will keep the road open throughout construction, although that adds 30 percent to the cost and 40 percent to the schedule, said Garrett. However, dust, heavy machinery and shifting back and forth to the narrow dirt lanes could test homeowners' patience.
Garrett noted that people trying to get the elementary school from the north should use the newly completed stretch of Mud Springs Road as an alterative route if possible.
Bonita Phase II:
Next, the construction action should shift to the final, 2,500-foot-long stretch of Bonita Road from Bentley Street to the Beeline Highway. This time, the town managed to finagle $700,000 from the state transportation fund, by breaking the application into two bits, noted Garrett.
The town will put up the remaining $400,000 to lay down a new base, new asphalt, curbs, a sidewalk and bike paths on each side of the road.
Construction on that project should start this summer and run for five months, to conclude before the onset of freezing temperatures cools fresh asphalt so fast that it crumbles.