The Payson Town Council has objected vehemently to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s plan to drop plans to widen Highway 260 on the way up to the Rim.
ADOT has already spent $300 million to turn the bottleneck and fatality-plagued stretch of Highway 260 east of Lion Spring to the top of the Mogollon Rim into a divided four-lane highway.
However, faced with the need to cut $350 million from its next five-year plan statewide, ADOT has proposed a long delay for the completion of the Highway 260 widening — and several other projects in Gila County.
Payson Mayor Kenny Evans said the cuts would fall disproportionately on rural Arizona — especially Gila County.
“After listening to their lame excuses ... well, I wasn’t going to say that. After listening to their explanations,” he resolved to rally opponents to the cuts.
He noted that ADOT already spends 90 percent of its highway money in Maricopa County — which has about two-thirds of the state’s population. But when the agency allocated the $350 million in cuts, it decided to allocate half the cuts to Maricopa County and the rest to rural counties. Even then, it concentrated half of the rural cuts in Gila County.
“So they decided to make half of the cuts in the area that gets 90 percent of the money — and then allocated half of the rural cuts to Gila County — about $175 million,” said Evans.
“So they want to shut down the Lion Springs (Highway 260) project that’s been 25 years in the making.”
The council then voted unanimously to oppose ADOT’s plan.