<i>A Long, Long Road</i><br>Finally, Mingus Avenue extension opens<br>

VVN/Philip Wright

Several hundred people turned out at noon Saturday to take part in the official dedication of the new bridge and extension of Mingus Avenue.

Chip Davis, Yavapai County supervisor said, "God blessed us with the perfect day for this historic event. We have beautiful weather, and there is water flowing under this bridge."

Davis said the project was a collaborative effort on the part of many people in local and county government. "We recognize the need to get our road system improved," he said.

Cottonwood Mayor Ruben Jauregui said the new road will be great for area productivity. "This is indeed a historic day. This is a wonderful addition."

State Rep. Tom O'Halleran agreed. "It's a triumph for this area in economic development."

About 20 years in the making, the project got started after the city of Cottonwood completed feasibility studies in the area and put the extension on their long-range transportation plans.

The county got involved about six years ago. Funds from the Yavapai County half-cent sales tax went toward the Mingus Avenue extension project.

Work really got started back in July 2003 when city, county and state officials gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony.

At the time, County Supervisor Chip Davis remarked, "this is really a significant occasion for the Verde Valley."

So far, the county has paid $11 million. Cottonwood contributed $1 million and funded the traffic signal at the Main Street and Mingus Avenue intersection.

Part of the county's funding went toward 369 acres purchased from the Arizona State Land Department for $2,214,000.

That land purchase was required in order to receive clearance from the Corps of Engineers and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

The extra acreage was necessary because of stipulations that come along when roadways cross watercourses. The land wasn't used for the extension project itself, but for the conservation of the endangered cliff rose plant species.

Another endangered species, a bird that goes by the name of the southwestern willow flycatcher, also impacted the construction.

Crews had to stop work from May through July since the Verde River is a potential habitat for the bird, which is currently on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's list of endangered animals.

Now that the work is done, the extension should cut the drive time from Cottonwood to Cornville and Sedona significantly.

The extended portion of Mingus Avenue is a two-mile stretch of road that crosses the Verde River with a 1,000-foot bridge. It links with Cornville Road at Arizona 89A, creating a new four-way intersection.

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