I know what you’re thinking ...
You looked at the title of this week’s column and said, “Three cheers for the Beeline Highway? Right! Three Bronx cheers!”
I agree with that. It’s the same thing I’ve been saying every time I try to drive in Payson on one of “those” days. “Those” days being ones on which 26,000 vehicles fumble their way through town.
Hey! Wait till you read what they had to say about that in ADOT’s, “Final Report 660” of Arizona Transportation History, written in December 2011! The part that pertains to the history of roads leading to Payson and the Rim Country is very enlightening.
And more than a little humorous!
The very first thing that I read in that report broke me up. Get this: “The contents of this report reflect the views of the authors. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views of ...”
As soon as I read that I knew that some of it was going to be the plain unvarnished truth. Check this quotation, for example: “For over a century, the difficult, mountainous route between Phoenix and Payson was known as one of the toughest, slowest, most dangerous passages a traveler could attempt.”
If that honest comment put a grin on your face, this one may put an even bigger one on it. “The first good road into the area was the Apache Trail, built in 1905 from Mesa to the site of Roosevelt Dam.”
They’re kidding, right?
“Good road?” Ever driven the Apache Trail? We did, when we first moved to Arizona in 1983. It was — and still is! — all dirt, barely wide enough for two cars to pass, and cut into the sides of hills without any guard rails to save someone who blows a tire; and it has hairpin curves that would break a snake’s back.
The report goes on to say that some canny Mesa businessman promoted the construction of a “better” road, which was than named after him. The result? The Bush Highway, described as “a rocky washboard surface that shook parts off vehicles, punctured tires, and overheated radiators on the steep grades.”
Lolly and I had already heard of Prescott, Payson and Pine before we moved here to Arizona. Bill, my oldest brother, was stationed here during World War II, and bought a place somewhere near Prescott with every intention of returning here, but he liked the Air Force so much that after the war he enlisted in an Air Force National Guard outfit in Connecticut, which was perfect for someone with his experience as an electronics technician, there being no outfit out here anything like it.
I took a job teaching science for Mesa Public Schools when we moved here; and we began driving north to look around. Prescott was nice, and I was tempted to take a job with the school district there, but the minute we saw the Payson and Pine of the 1980s we decided that the Rim Country was where we belonged.
At that time, driving the Beeline up here and back to the Valley was terrible. As the report says, “By the 1980s northbound travelers swamped the road on Friday evenings, and on Sunday afternoons the return traffic to Phoenix caused backups and dangerous conditions in the southbound lanes.”
We didn’t care about that, of course. Coming up here was going to be a one-way trip for us; but then some genius decided to “improve” the Beeline instead of letting weekenders use I-17.
Hey, ADOT! Where’s that bypass you promised us?