With three miles of Young Road recently paved, residents are whistling a sweet tune nearly all the way to work and if they can get another 14 miles of badly pitted and rutted road smoothed over, they will have smooth sailing all the way.
“Everyone is just jumping up and down” over the paving, said Bob Benne, a member of the Eastern Arizona Counties Resource Advisory Committee.
For years, residents have pleaded with the county to smooth over the Young Road, which is the main thoroughfare to the community of roughly 600 full-time residents, 60 miles east of Payson.
“If you have not had the pleasure to drive down, it is extremely potholed and terribly, terribly wash-boarded — it will beat your car to death,” Benne said, who is also a reserve deputy with the Gila County Sheriff’s Office.
Even paramedics and firefighters felt pangs from the pitted road.
When a woman fell and broke her hip, paramedics could not transport the woman out without fear of injuring her further.
“It is tearing up emergency equipment,” Benne said.
County officials have worked to procure the roughly $14 million necessary to pave the road, which officials say every winter becomes impassable with snow and ice. In addition, with a high number of summer travelers and hunters, the road is only getting worse every year with increased use.
In March, the Gila County supervisors requested $17 million worth of projects from the federal government. One of those projects was $3 million for the Young Road. County officials hoped that by asking for the money in increments, they could get the worse sections paved. Luckily, the project cost less than expected. Using earmark and grant funds, $1.2 million was raised to pave three miles from the turnoff at State Route 260 to the Canyon Creek Campground turnoff.
Benne said those three miles on the Rim were some of the worse.
It took crews about a month to pave, with construction ending in late October.
Benne said it took months of coordination and the work of several agencies to acquire the money and permits. Along with the Eastern Arizona Counties Resource Advisory Committee, Jacque Griffin, Steve Sanders and Steve Stratton with Gila County all worked on the project.
While Benne said residents are grateful for the paving, the rest of the road is in bad need of repair. Unfortunately, road crews have no granite to resurface the road. Benne hopes the county will come forward with granite, which is “sorely needed.”
Most Young residents drive to Payson or other nearby towns at least once a week for groceries and medical services since they are limited in Young. The traffic flow along Young Road is incredible, Benne said.
“We would love, at some point, to get it all paved, but we don’t have the money for it. At $400,000 a mile, that is really being optimistic to think anyone can come up with that kind of money, especially in these times.”