If everyone stays calm, Payson may finally wrap up nearly a year of furor and debate about a “defacto highway bypass” at a special meeting of the Surface Transportation Advisory Committee from 4 to 8 p.m., Wednesday at town hall.
The public meeting is slated to get neighborhood input on a plan to use mostly reflectors, stripes and stop signs to slow down people trying to take a shortcut on Phoenix Street and Mud Springs to get from Highway 87 to Highway 260.
The meeting should determine whether a year of talk and fiddling with street plans will prove enough to mollify the once fierce opposition to a plan to extend Mud Springs from where it now connects to Granite Dells to a new intersection with Highway 260.
The final extension of Mud Springs once topped the town’s road construction list and had been slated for this year, before the economic downturn forced the cancellation of most road projects indefinitely.
But when the extension seemed imminent, it spurred several crowed public meetings dominated by complaints from people living along hilly Phoenix Street that hoards of gridlocked summer visitors seeking a back route, would turn the circuitous local streets into an RV parking lot, keeping locals from even backing out of their driveways.
However, a traffic study required by ADOT ended up predicting that the extension wouldn’t generate enough traffic to require more than a stop sign at the highway and traffic counts over the summer showed little impact from the recent extension of Mud Springs to Granite Dells, which provided an only slightly less roundabout route to the highway than the proposed additional extension.
In the meantime, STAC held a series of meetings to gather input. Town Engineer LaRon Garrett blended those suggestions into a three-step plan to slow or divert highway bypass traffic from the local streets once the Mud Springs extension makes it back onto the list of scheduled projects.
The STAC committee generally favored the least restrictive option, which relies mostly on scattered stop signs, stripes, reflectors and parking restrictions to make the road seem narrower — and thereby slow traffic.
At earlier meetings, representatives of homeowners associations who previously most opposed the extension, gave grudging approval to the proposed restrictions — and generally disagreed with the more severe options.
The highest impact restrictions would have prevented people from turning onto Mud Springs or Phoenix Street from the highway, but that would have also had a big impact on local residents trying to get home and on school buses and emergency vehicles.
The next most restrictive set of measures involved a scattering of speed humps, to jolt anyone going faster than the posted speed limit. STAC members generally opposed those more expensive and inconvenient measures as well, reasoning that they would mostly irritate local residents using the roads every day.
So that leaves the minimalist approach on the agenda for tonight’s meeting.
After gathering one final round of input, the STAC committee will make recommendations to the town council, which has previously said that the traffic “calming” measures on the local streets would be built as part of the million-dollar extension of Mud Springs.
However, that extension remains on hold with a host of other street projects, due to a slump in sales taxes and building fees.