Did Tab Get Stabbed? Traffic Board’S New Rules

What’s in a name? Commission now a town council advisory board

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Not STAB.

Now it’s TAB.

But did the TAB get stabbed?

The oddly long-running debate about the name and powers of the volunteer citizens group that advises the Payson Town Council on all things street related took another interesting lurch last week, when the council once-again renamed the group — and limited the stuff the citizen advisers can talk about.

The council voted unanimously to change the acronym-blighted name of the Surface Transportation Advisory Board (STAB) to the less threatening Transportation Advisory Board (TAB).

However, the change still left the traffic group classified as a board rather than a commission, which in the newly hard-nosed municipal lexicon could limit TAB’s right to investigate problems.

Some months ago, the council shuffled the names of a number of advisory groups and made a bureaucratic distinction between a “commission” that can largely set its own agenda and a “board” that’s supposed to look into only things the council assigns it.

Members of the Traffic Advisory Board have been scratching their heads and trying to figure out the rules ever since.

The latest rewrite of the rules on how the traffic board should run clarified the details — sort of.

The new rules eliminate a whole list of potential topics, including funding sources, the state highway and public transit. However, the board will still study matters related to streets, traffic circulation, bike paths, trails, traffic safety, traffic volumes and traffic studies — in addition to any other topic on which the council specifically asks for advice.

The council last week approved the new guidelines.

TAB discussed the new rules the week before that, with some of the board members still expressing concerns about whether they’ll be free to look into topics related to traffic and transportation.

The board members initially bridled at language that seemed to suggest that they couldn’t put items on their own agenda, unless the mayor had asked them to do so.

One-time council candidate and present-day Gila Community College board member Tom Loeffler said he’d had several conversations with Payson Mayor Kenny Evans about protecting the ability of the board to look into things even without direct orders from the council.

After a long discussion, TAB sought language in the new rules that would enable it to undertake preliminary studies of issues related to traffic, so the board would have the facts needed for the council to determine whether to ask for a full-fledged study.

That compromise seemed to alleviate TAB members’ concerns they would be kept on such a short leash that they couldn’t tackle important topics.

Several board members objected to a sentence in the new rules that said that the TAB chairman “shall exercise and perform such duties as are assigned to him or her by the mayor and town council.”

However, they ultimately concluded that as long as they set their own agenda and at least do preliminary studies of traffic-related topics, they could work with the new language.

Until two years ago, the TAB board had functioned quietly supervising various street improvements. But then the proposed extension of Mud Springs Road to Highway 260 convulsed town politics.

Residents living along Phoenix Street vehemently protested the proposed extension of Mud Springs beyond the new Granite Dells traffic circle because they feared it would become a defacto highway bypass on gridlocked weekends.

Then-mayor Bob Edwards took up their cause and continued to fight the extension even after the council approved it. That tangle ultimately prompted the council to refer the whole mess to the traffic board.

TAB held a series of hearings then recommended a $100,000 set of speed bumps, narrowings and street striping to slow down traffic.

By the time the smoke cleared, several of the people who had originally protested the extension of Mud Springs wound up on TAB and the hearings seemed to have mollified the residents.

In the meantime, the recession dried up town revenues, prompting the council to indefinitely cancel almost all major street projects — including the Mud Springs extension.

However, TAB has poked into various other issues in the long, profound lull in processing new projects caused by the collapse of the construction industry in town. For instance, TAB has been working to review speed limits in town, in hopes of creating some corridors that would move people quickly through town on routes off the highway — which often becomes gridlocked on summer weekends. That could result in recommendations from the TAB board to actually increase speed limits on key arterial streets, in hopes of draining traffic off neighborhood streets.

Some of those recommendations have spurred controversy, however, since residents almost always want the speed limit of the street on which they live lowered.

The new rules would appear to leave TAB free to undertake preliminary studies of such topics, before getting council approval to go into more depth and make specific policy recommendations.

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