Simple Fixes Could Improve Accident-Prone Granite Dells-260 Intersection

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Some signs and painted stripes could reduce the number of crashes in one of Payson’s most bewildering intersections, the town’s Transportation Advisory Board has concluded.

Town officials have long fretted about the curving intersection between Granite Dells and Highway 260, right where a private driveway and the outlet for the Safeway parking lot create a unique swirl of traffic chaos.

Now, TAB may have hit on a cheap solution to a nagging problem, thanks to the public spirit of a former Yale professor turned traffic consultant.

Robert Bleyl, who spent 16 years teaching traffic engineering at Yale before retiring to Payson, studied the intersection and this week made a series of recommendations to TAB — mostly focused on putting up signs and painting lane guide lines on the pavement.

He noted that police have recorded 23 fender-benders and other “incidents” there in the past 18 months, as drivers on Granite Dells round the curve and contend with cars turning out of the Safeway Shopping Center as they pull up to the light on the busy highway.

“The collisions at this intersection appeared to be one-of-a-kind incidents scattered throughout the intersection. I observed a number of inter-vehicular conflicts during my site visits that could have resulted in collisions,” Bleyl write in a report to TAB.

He noted that the town couldn’t afford the fixes needed to solve all the problems, which would include traffic islands, lights and turn pockets.

However, a little paint could work wonders, he concluded.

Bleyl presented a series of diagrams showing traffic volumes and proposed fixes.

Essentially, he recommended painting virtual traffic islands of various sizes to guide drivers.

One set of lines and islands would ensure that people leaving the Safeway parking lot would merge into the right lanes on Granite Dells Road as it turns into Manzanita Drive. Other painted-on lines would make sure that drivers lined up correctly to turn onto Highway 260.

TAB member Shirley Dye said “the simplicity of this could be used in a lot of other places in town.”

TAB Chairman Bob Dalby said “we appreciate all the time you’ve spent on this. We especially appreciate you’re not giving us a $20,000 bill for your efforts.”

The board happily endorsed Bleyl’s solution to one of the town’s more vexing traffic problems and pressed Town Engineer LaRon Garrett to start slapping down paint as soon as possible.

Garrett said any changes would have to wait on the road maintenance crews’ efforts to clean up after recent floodings. “I’m not sure how long it will take us to get to all the flood damage.”

Bleyl made six major recommendations and Garrett only expressed qualms about one of them — the suggestion that the town try to convince a longtime homeowner who owns four acres at the intersection to close off one of his driveways.

The loop driveway empties out directly in the middle of the most confusing portion of the intersection “which greatly compounds the number of conflict points at this intersection and is in violation of widely accepted driveway control principles and regulations,” said Bleyl.

“It’s a good suggestion from a technical standpoint, but from a political standpoint it might be difficult,” said Garrett.

The homeowners have owned the land since before the town incorporated and might not want to give up a major entrance into their property, said Garrett. “But it’s worth an effort,” he added.

The discussion had certain ironic overtones, considering the issues and people involved.

The intersection at Granite Dells and the highway picked up a lot of extra traffic some two years ago when the town extended Mud Springs and connected it to Granite Dells with a traffic circle. The town’s transportation plan calls for an additional extension of Phoenix Street to the highway.

However, residents of Phoenix Street, backed by then-mayor Bob Edwards, vigorously protested that idea. At the time, both Dye and Dalby played a leading role in organizing the opposition to the extension of Mud Springs.

The proposal spurred months of controversy, driven by people who lived along Phoenix Street and Mud Springs convinced the extended road would become a gridlocked, de facto highway bypass on busy weekends.

At that time, Bleyl did a volunteer traffic study that concluded the extension of the street probably wouldn’t generate very much additional traffic on the long, slow, roundabout detour from Highway 87 to Highway 260.

However, the Mud Springs controversy faded away partly because TAB recommended a host of “traffic calming” changes and partly because the town canceled all its street building plans in the face of the recession.

Ironically enough, Wednesday’s meeting brought together some of the same players in that old controversy — but this time sitting on the traffic advisory board trying to deal with some of the traffic effects of not extending Mud Springs.

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