Payson's traffic advisory committee has slated a Feb. 19 public meeting to get advice on whether to connect Mud Springs Road to Highway 260, but immediately ran afoul of the increasingly complicated politics of what seems to be the hottest issue in town.
The newly installed chair of the Surface Transportation Advisory Committee (STAC) on Wednesday announced a Feb. 19 meeting at which the committee and town staff will present options for slowing traffic to make sure Phoenix Street and Mud Springs won't become a circuitous highway bypass if connected at the north end to Highway 260.
Battered by the loud outcry of residents on Phoenix Street afraid the long-planned extension would lure cars off the clogged highway, the council asked STAC to review the $1.1 million project.
STAC Chairman Tom Loeffler, who is also running for council on a ticket endorsed by Mayor Bob Edwards, on Wednesday announced the meeting at Frontier Elementary School at 6 p.m. to present ways to slow traffic and discourage trucks and cars trying to avoid highway gridlock by snaking through the residential neighborhoods.
Loeffler said the town has sent 250 notices of the meeting to people living along Phoenix Street and Mud Springs, hundreds of whom have signed petitions opposing the extension.
But Councilman Mike Vogel rose from the audience during a STAC meeting Wednesday and asked the committee to also notify people living along other streets like Frontier and Bonita about the meeting.
Many residents in that area have now signed new petitions supporting the extension, which has increasingly pitted both different neighborhoods and council factions against one another.
Loeffler hastily promised to send out additional letters.
In addition, the issue took another twist Wednesday with the resignation from STAC of Diana Sexton, which seems likely to add fuel to a dispute about mayoral appointments that has roiled the town council.
Mayor Bob Edwards refused to reappoint to STAC Gordon Metcalf, who along with the rest of the committee had supported the extension to improve traffic circulation in the southeastern section of town. Edwards had then sought to appoint to STAC Joanie King, who had gathered signatures opposing the extension.
Several council members complained that the mayor was attempting to stack the committee and not providing sufficient notice of appointments.
Sexton's resignation means the seven-member committee now has two vacancies. The mayor recommends appointments to all commissions and boards, which the council must then approve.
The STAC committee must now determine whether "traffic calming" devices like gates, signs, speed bumps, and striping can bar trucks, discourage people from turning off the highway and slow speeds sufficiently to extend Mud Springs, while still satisfying residents along Phoenix Street.
Several residents who attended the meeting expressed frustration that STAC and the town council continue to consider questions related to the extension instead of starting fresh with a comprehensive study to see whether the extension should ever be approved.
"What irritates us is that this has popped up back on your agenda, as though you didn't hear us at all," said Shirley Dye.