Mon, June 24

Sedona residents dominate ADOT meeting<br>

Yavapai County government officials got a chance to show off some of their new high-tech toys last week for the state Transportation Board.

And the board approved a contract for $3.4 million worth of Highway 89A improvements between Prescott Valley and Jerome.

But an issue that wasn't even on the agenda dominated the meeting during the board's rare Yavapai County appearance in Cottonwood.

Sedona-area residents converged on the board during its call to the audience.

They were there to talk about the Arizona Department of Transportation (DOT) proposal to widen Highway 179 between Interstate 17 and Sedona — and, suffice it to say, no one spoke in support of that proposal.

Twenty Sedona-area residents spoke to the board, and 15 made it clear that they oppose widening the road. Another seven speakers just said "no" from their seats. More than 100 listened, half of them via a TV connection in the hallway. The opposition also brought along petitions with 2,830 signatures.

"Please save the beauty of Sedona," said opponent Diane Carson of the Voice of Choice group.

Others expressed similar concerns, that turning the two-lane highway into four or five lanes would destroy the beauty of the area and "destroy tens of thousands of oxygen-producing trees," as Cole Greenberg put it. The ADOT board members won't be getting their names on a plaque for widening the road, he said.

"I don't want my name on it," agreed ADOT board Vice Chair Roc Arnett with a smile, producing the only audience laughs during the discussion.

The debate over what to do with the road has been going on for a decade, and it doesn't appear close to resolution.

ADOT officials plan to talk more with local residents at a Nov. 27 meeting in Sedona and a Nov. 28 meeting in Phoenix.

One project already on the way to construction is the Highway 89A improvement. The board awarded the contract to the low bidder, FNF Construction of Tempe. The bid was 32 percent greater than a consultant's estimate, but that estimate was too low, state engineer Dick Wright told the board.

The project includes paving 11 miles of the highway, from Jerome to the base of Mingus Mountain; stabilizing steep hillsides adjacent to the winding highway; and building a scenic pull-out a half-mile southwest of Jerome on one of the few spots overlooking the Verde Valley where the ground doesn't drop hundreds of feet next to the pavement.

The state will then close the two tiny pullouts closer to Jerome. District Engineer Tom Foster stopped short of calling them dangerous, instead preferring to say they're "not functional."

He hopes the cliff stabilization work will start within 20 days, and ADOT will literally close the highway each night for months while the contractor works, Foster said.

County Administrator Jim Holst was at the controls for a simulated flight over state and county roads, with the help of new county government equipment.

He first transported the board over tri-city roads: Pioneer Parkway, Highway 89A and its new western leg under construction, and Fain Road. Then he hit the Verde Valley, first cruising above Highway 260 and its future reroute around Camp Verde, then its future divided road on west into Cottonwood.

Then he flew over Cottonwood's future Mingus Avenue Extension, as well as the county's Cornville and Beaverhead roads.

He ended with a new satellite photo of Camp Verde, showing the future Highway 260/Interstate 17 intersection area imposed on it.