I write to respond to Ted Thayer's letter suggesting that additional research is needed before pushing for an alternate route.
Before becoming the chair of the Mayor's Alternate Route Task Force, I checked the Internet for studies of what effect alternate routes had had on other towns. I was aware that a significant portion of the town's income is sales tax, much of it paid by visitors passing through town. Also, the businesses in town are owned and operated by our friends and neighbors and they provide a wonderful service to us. I would not like to see them harmed. These studies show that almost without exception, towns that were economically in good shape prior to the building of an alternate route were as busy, or even busier than before the route was opened. Granted, some towns that were struggling due to mine closures or other economic setbacks did not fare as well. Our neighbors in Christopher Creek, though initially concerned about their businesses with the opening of the loop, report business is better than ever. Payson is economically strong and some businesses have closed due to other reasons that cannot be blamed on an alternate route --Country Kitchen, The China Buffet, Fiesta Mexicana.
There are things we can do to protect our local businesses. The route goes entirely through Forest Service land and they have indicated a willingness to make it non-commercial. The towns of Payson and Star Valley can annex land around all possible ends of the route so the use of the land can be further controlled. We would have signs before the bypass begins indicating that there are points of interest, food, gasoline and lodging ahead in Payson and that there are no services for the next whatever number of miles. Being an hour and a half from the Valley, travelers will want to stop for a meal, gasoline or a break. Between here and there, there is just about nothing. Another thing that must be borne in mind is this: if they were to start today to design and begin construction of the highway one would not be able to drive on it for 10 or 12 years -- if we were lucky. We already have some weekends that DPS officers report 17-mile backups on Route 260. How much worse it will be in 10 years. Some businesses already close on Friday afternoons during the summer because locals cannot or will not try to get to them.
Payson is itself becoming a destination town with the rodeos, bike races, the Beeline Cruise-In and Car Show and so forth. There was a task force intended to make this even more so, though since the election one cannot know the status of those efforts.
Our mayor-elect Kenny Evans was the chairman of the Yuma Chamber of Commerce when the U.S. Department of Transportation built an alternate route there over the chamber's objection. He reports it very much improved business and the quality of life there.
We absolutely need to press ahead with requesting that ADOT expedite getting our wonderful town an alternate route.