Although the Arizona Department of Transportation is suffering through a tough economic crisis, a slew of projects have been approved in the Payson area, including widening Highway 260 to Heber, installing a roundabout at Airport Road and repaving multiple roads.
ADOT will present the projects at a Citizens Awareness Committee meeting May 28 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and answer any residents’ questions.
“We have received quite a few projects for Payson,” said public information officer Bill Williams. “This is a great way to explain them and interact with people.”
One of the more exciting projects to begin later this year is installation of an “elk crosswalk,” in the Preacher Canyon area, Williams said.
An elk crossing system was installed last year on Highway 260 to safely get elk and other wildlife across the highway. A system of cameras detects wildlife in the area and alerts motorists with flashing lights and signs.
“The elk program has already stopped dozens of collisions,” he said.
According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, from 1994 to 2006, 462 wildlife-vehicle collisions were recorded in the Christopher Creek section, with 84 percent involving elk, and 14 percent deer.
The new system, an ElectroBraid Fence Crosswalk or Electromat, will complement the existing system.
The system works like a scale. A mat with a small current running through it will be placed across the roadway where the cameras are located.
Unlike the cameras, which only detect movement and can be fooled by other animals who run in front of the lenses, the mat will only signal the lights and signs to flash when an animal of the same weight as a deer or elk walks on the roadway. Along with signs, this will further warn motorists to slow down and use caution in the elk crossing. The current is not strong enough to shock anyone or anything that walks on the mat, Williams said.
The research project, run and funded by cooperation between the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Forest Service and ADOT, will help engineers evaluate what systems work to minimize wildlife collisions across state highways. The program is scheduled to end 2015.
An ongoing improvement project along Highway 260 will continue into this year with another section of the roadway widened to four lanes.
“Our long range vision is to have four lanes from Payson to Heber, but we are doing it in chunks,” he said.
Three, four-mile sections of the roadway have already been completed with the construction price tag of $30 million or more per section. The next project ADOT plans to advertise this spring is in the Little Green Valley starting around milepost 263. Contractors will soon bid on the project, but Williams estimates it will cost around $30 million.
“It’s important to remember that about 80 cents of every dollar ADOT spends on these types of projects goes back into the communities. And these construction projects create local jobs,” Williams said.
In Payson, design plans are in the works to build a roundabout on Airport Road.
“ADOT believes the intersection warrants safety improvements and had considered either a traffic signal or a roundabout,” Williams said. The town requested a roundabout two years ago at the intersection, which cost the town and ADOT around $300,000 each.
Given today’s economic conditions, Williams said that project might be on hold.
“We will know more on May 28 regarding costs, budgets and final design.”
From Payson to Pine
Along Highway 87, expect to see a number of improvements from Payson to the Mogollon Rim.
Starting from the Control Road north a mile and from Pine south a mile, crews will repave the roadway, install guardrails and cut out new shoulders.
The project should cost $3.7 million and will begin at the end of summer. This project is the only project in the Payson area being paid for with federal stimulus funds. The rest of the projects are funded by the state.
Heading north from Pine to the Rim, 10 miles of highway will be repaved, costing $5.5 million.
Other ADOT projects:
• Replacing fencing from Payson to Pine
• Repaving at Highways 87 and 188 junction
• Replace the two-lane highway to four at Doubtful Canyon from milepost 269 to 272
• Complete the landslide project near Sunflower of Highway 87
Call 511 or visit www.az511.gov for the latest updates on highway conditions across Arizona.