Staff Photo by Angela De Welles
WORKERS continue construction of the Mingus Avenue Extension in Cottonwood. May 1 there will be a scheduled shutdown as surveys are taken for the southwestern willow flycatcher.
"The reason they have to stop is the southwestern willow flycatcher," Byron Jaspers said. Jaspers is the county's project management director.
The flycatcher is a bird currently on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's list of endangered species. Since the Verde River is a potential habitat for the bird, federal law mandates that construction cannot take place within a quarter mile of the river.
"Which effectively shuts down the project," Yavapai County Project Manager Director Phil Bourdon said.
The shutdown will begin May 1, and surveys will take place in June. If no flycatchers are spotted, construction may start again in July otherwise crews will have to wait until September to finish what they've started.
So far, about 80 percent of the road paving is complete according to Jaspers. A lot of the work on the 1,000-foot bridge is done, but won't be completed until after the break.
"Everything's going real well," Jaspers said.
The project is scheduled for completion by December of this year. When finished, the extended Mingus Avenue will cross the Verde River and link with Cornville Road at Arizona 89A.
The total construction costs will reach $12 million. Yavapai County has paid $11 million with funds from the half-cent sales tax. The city of Cottonwood will contribute $1 million to the project and is responsible for funding the traffic signal at the Mingus/Main intersection.
Tim Costello, Cottonwood's city engineer, said the signal project has cost the city around $167,000, but it's a necessity.
"The volume of traffic was sufficient on Mingus just the way things were," Costello said.
The signal would have been necessary without the extension of Mingus Avenue, but now with the expected increase in traffic it will be needed even more.
Costello said the signal will probably be up and running by the middle of next week. Cottonwood police will be on hand for the first light cycle to make sure everything runs smoothly. Days before the signal is turned on, message boards will be placed on Main Street to alert motorists of the change to come.
Costello said the safety precautions are necessary because, "some people are real creatures of habit" and may not think to stop when the signal is working.
"People ought to be more vigilant than normal," Costello said.