Three roundabouts will be installed in Camp Verde, all near the Cliff Castle Casino, according to Yavapai-Apache Nation’s Rene Toman.
Toman, the Economic Development Authority administrator, also confirmed that the new improvement along Middle Verde Road/ Montezuma Castle Highway will go to four lanes in place of the existing two in front the Nation’s property. It will transition down to two lanes through one of the roundabouts onto town boundaries. And in order to avoid construction delays like last summer, the Nation official said they have agreed to leave the old section in place while building the new two lanes, and then move traffic to the new lanes while rebuilding the old section.
"We’ll go out to bid this month for the contractor for the construction of the Middle Verde project (Montezuma Castle Highway improvement), which will probably get started in mid March. It will include the development of the two roundabouts located on the Nation’s boundaries," explained Toman. "After that project is completed, the Nation will then enter into an IGA with ADOT and proceed to do a roundabout at the Interstate 17-Middle Verde Road interchange. The interchange roundabout is totally separate," she added.
One roundabout is scheduled to be built in front of the Cliff Castle Casino at Sonic and a second at the roadway turn to Montezuma Castle National Park at the corner of the Yavapai-Apache Cultural Center. The stone waterfall sign in front of the casino must be taken down, said Toman, and new signage installed in the center of the roundabout at the casino entrance.
Toman was unable to provide a timeframe for installation of the third roundabout at the interchange but did indicate that the Montezuma Castle Highway/Middle Verde improvement with two roundabouts should be done in six-to-eight months.
"Because of the close proximity in front of the casino and interstate, they are called ‘sister’ roundabouts, meaning they must work in tandem," she said. "To make sure that will take place, we are dealing with roundabout guru, if you will, Barry Crown from England, a sub-consultant for Shephard-Wesnitzer, Inc. He has assured us that they will work in tandem."
Concerned with the public’s reaction, especially based on comments in Clarkdale for a similar project, Toman noted that there will be public information meetings later this year.
"The main thing I want the public to know is that we will have community presentations," she said. "We will explain what roundabouts are, how they are beneficial to the community and how to drive in one. Just like the public, we’re didn’t want that kind of change, but ADOT presented the facts of how this was a new, better way to handle traffic congestion."
Toman went on to say that the Nation and ADOT’s boundaries come together in the Sonic/Casino intersection and that ADOT was insistent on the roundabout alternatives instead of traffic lights. She said in their discussions with the Arizona Department of Transportation, they learned a lot of benefits.
"Roundabouts are the safest form of traffic control in the world. They reduce crashes, delays, vehicle speeds, lane requirements and ultimately the road construction cost," she explained. "It’s traffic calming. It doesn’t involve all the starts and stops. You eliminate a lot of air pollution, because you don’t have cars idling. Roundabouts create gateways into the communities. They use them for beautification because you can have small foliage and art incorporated into them. They can create a focal point."
The Nation’s upcoming project will involve roadway improvements from the Lodge at Cliff Castle Casino to the interstate. Toman said it will cost about $2.5 million for the improvement that includes two of the three roundabouts.
In 2003, the Town of Camp Verde and Yavapai County made major improvements to the same highway from Camp Lincoln Road to the Nation’s boundaries at the Lodge.