The 50 people who attended an open house meeting on slowing down traffic on Phoenix Street and Mud Springs Road offered a mixed review of grins, grimaces and shrugs to a $283,000 plan to ensure the route never becomes a “defacto” highway bypass.
Payson’s Surface Transportation Advisory Committee festooned the walls of the council chamber with giant maps showing the possible changes, all triggered by resident complaints that a plan to extend Mud Springs to Highway 260 would lure a crush of weekend drivers.
“I’ve talked and I’ve talked and I’ve talked and it’s done absolutely no good,” said Becky Miles who opposes any extension of Mud Springs. “The town is going to do what the town is going to do.”
On the other hand, resident Mike McGuire said the town should extend Mud Springs and see if it actually creates a problem before embracing the solutions on display Wednesday — one of which would eliminate street parking and put in a bike path in front of his house.
Bicyclist zipping down the hill past his driveway will “create a liability to me I can’t absorb.”
“I don’t want none of it — none of it,” said Leo McDonald, who lives on Phoenix Street. He said the town should just put in speed humps all along the route, rather than the traffic circles, raised crosswalks, added stop signs and barriers to narrow and offset the street to slow down drivers.
But Sharon Bryant observed, “I think they’ve done a pretty good job, they’ve put a lot of thought into it. We were very concerned.”
After nearly a year of study, STAC is nearly ready to pick and choose among the options assembled by town engineer LaRon Garrett — arranged in three levels of increasingly severe restrictions.
Several of the STAC members have said they don’t think the town needs to spend money on any of the options until it’s clear a problem actually exists.
More than a year ago, the town connected Mud Springs to Granite Dells, which provided an only slightly more roundabout connection to the highway than the proposed, short, final extension of Mud Springs itself to the highway.
After Mud Springs connected to Granite Dells, traffic actually dropped about 3 percent, said Garrett, a statistically insignificant change.
The lack of additional traffic has caused Garrett to predict that extending Mud Springs won’t create the nightmare residents fear.
Resident Shirley Dye still disagrees and opposes the extension, but said most residents would reluctantly accept the extension in return for the level-one traffic changes.
The cost of those level-one changes totals $283,000, with the construction of traffic circles at Elk Ridge Drive and Phoenix Street and at Promontory Point and Phoenix Street accounting for half the total cost.
Several residents said they’d rather have four-way stop signs than traffic circles.
Garrett said traffic circles would cause fewer accidents and provide for smoother traffic flow, while still slowing down drivers.
The other major elements in the stage one plan included $28,000 for a raised sidewalk that would have the effect of a giant speed hump north of Frontier Elementary School, $60,000 to create raised berms or planters to narrow the street and slow drivers, $25,000 for center islands on one part of Mud Springs and $49,000 for bike lanes and barriers to weave traffic and slow drivers.
The meeting represented the first time Garrett has put even a tentative price tag on the proposed changes. The level-two changes would add additional traffic circles and road narrowing at a cost of $127,500.
The most restrictive level-three changes would effectively prevent people from turning off the highway and driving the length of the Phoenix Street and Mud Springs route, with barriers to block lanes at various points. That would force residents to drive a roundabout route on other neighborhood streets to get home. Level-three change totals cost about $35,000.
STAC will compile the most recent suggestions and, in December, meet again to decide on a final recommendation to the council. So far, the committee has shown little interest in the level 3 restrictions. Several members have expressed support for the level 1 restrictions, but that was before Garrett put a price tag on the options.
In fact, money may defer the whole issue well into the future.
The road for a time dominated town politics, when the million-dollar Mud Springs extension topped the town’s road priorities and seemed likely to win approval in the current year.
An outcry by residents and resistance by then-Mayor Bob Edwards prompted the council to return the issue to STAC for further study. In the meantime, the town slid into a budget crisis that prompted the cancellation of most new road projects.
The council early this year wanted the transportation committee to recommend traffic calming strategies and promised to include those measures in the cost of any extension of Mud Springs. The new council majority has never discussed the proposed extension or the traffic calming proposal in public.