Thu, May 23

Celebrate the Red Rock Road honors all who made it happen

State Highway 179: The 'All American Road'

State Highway 179: The 'All American Road'

State Route 179, the magnificent Gateway to our Red Rock Country, is finally complete.

The balloons have waved, the ribbon's been cut and the speeches made ... we are open for business, and WOW is it something to be proud of!

This Scenic Byway, named an "All American Road" with the highest scenic designation in America, is truly a story of how the PEOPLE can make such miracles happen.

A VIP motorcade brought dignitaries from ADOT, the Federal Highway Administration, the State Transportation Board and important leaders from near and far to the glorious Aug. 20-21 Celebration held at the Village's Tequa Plaza and in Sedona. Weekend ceremonies and festivities were all about honoring the many local citizens, merchants and organizations that tirelessly worked together to create an efficient highway design that would reflect our communities' passionate respect for the unique and majestic beauty that surrounds us.

At first it was a battle with ADOT for the people's right to be heard on the issue. Hoping to overturn ADOT's original Plan C as unacceptable in this rare and beautiful area, from 2000-2003 huge efforts were made with thousands of letters, petition signatures and donations organized by a small group named "The Voice of Choice for 179."

Then, under the leadership of the new, enlightened ADOT Deputy Director Debra Brisk, everything changed. The people's voices were welcome. More than a thousand locals turned out at the many ADOT sponsored design Charrettes in what was to become a National Award-winning process of public input, the Needs Based Implementation Plan (NBIP).

Together, the people worked with the extraordinary expertise of the "new" ADOT as the highway design unfolded.

Finally, we can only imagine (and have personally observed) the enormous challenges of this five year construction project through the roughest and most scenic areas of both our towns and the forest lands in between. Brilliantly headed up by ADOT Project Manager Jennifer Livingston (now Toth) and later, Project Manager Carl Burkhalter, they and their engineering crews also felt the passion of the community for this project.

They've described walking every inch of the proposed road, taking every opportunity to capture the character and beauty of this place.

We could never be more grateful for their extraordinary skills, leadership, patience with the human and natural elements ... and their dedication to getting it right. It's been exactly 10 years from start to finish.

Now, let's ALL go, relax and enjoy the drive!

The big August SR 179 Road Celebration/Dedication/Ribbon-cutting hoopla has wound down and the tractors and bulldozers have at last vanished to other distant projects.

Now, we Villagers and Sedonans can FINALLY relax in the quiet and really contemplate what an extraordinary accomplishment occurred in our small town. The following local citizens were at the heart of it, in addition to those mentioned in the August Villager. These are their thoughts:

Bill Kusner, Member Voice of Choice: It all started with a funnel.  To solve the traffic congestion on SR 179, ADOT proposed a four-five lane expressway bringing large numbers of fast-moving vehicles from south of the Village to 89A. A major problem was the infamous "Y" intersection, which ADOT did not intend to address in their plan ... traffic frequently stalled there, often backed-up in long and frustrating lines. Many citizens of the Village and Sedona did not think that the ADOT solution would work, and as more than a hundred people gathered on a warm spring evening in 2000, a plastic funnel, which was to become a symbol of sorts, was held up to demonstrate the situation: 

The "old" ADOT would provide an enormous express highway, cutting straight and wide through our beautiful forest and actually building sound barrier walls in front of red rock views. But then it would come to a screeching halt at the "Y." The road would only become a bigger funnel for more traffic but with the same narrow stem and no efficient place for it all to go...creating a monster with no solution to the problem!

If it weren't for the citizens who worked for many hours during those early years serving on and supporting the Voice of Choice, we would not have the impressive road we have today.  Hats off to those folks who made it happen and to the "new" ADOT for finally listening and talking with the people...and providing us a beautiful road that works.

Bill Eich, Member Voice of Choice: For those folks who wonder when this whole 179 thing started, I have in hand a letter I received from George E. Wallace, Roadway Studies Manager,

from ADOT, dated 9 November 2000. In it he told me (and many others in this form letter) that ADOT was aware of the unique scenic beauty of Sedona and he had been asked to respond on behalf of Director Mary Peters. "ADOT has made a thorough evaluation of the technical as well as the environmental issues," he wrote. "We have worked diligently with the City of Sedona, the Coconino National Forest and others to ensure that the proposed improvements to SR 179 have the least impact on the environment, retain the qualities of a scenic road while still meeting the needs of the traveling public." It all sounded wonderful until the actual concept for a huge, flat, straight freeway, wider than I-17 was revealed. Aren't we glad that Voice of Choice actually studied that original ADOT plan and alerted the public, which succeeded in changing the mind of ADOT!

Thom Stanley, Member, Voice of Choice: My experience with Voice of Choice for 179 began with a request from Jim Bishop to join a cadre of concerned, hard-working people whose love for Sedona drove them to steer ADOT to redesign SR 179 as a road that would reflect the majestic, natural ambience of the place they called home. By holding town hall meetings and educating the public with facts, Voice of Choice members convinced enough Sedonans to sway ADOT to alter their conception of design and construction from cookie-cutter to designer at no additional costs. This eventual cooperation garnered ADOT an award for communication with small town citizenry. While it was the power of the masses to move the mountain, a great deal of the credit goes to the people who brought the masses together - Voice of Choice for 179.

Janet Sabina, the 'biographer' of the Voice of Choice for SR179 movement for the people's right to be heard, gathered the following thoughts from several members of the Voice of Choice:

• "You have to fall in love with Sedona to disrupt your life and move here ... and then you'll fight to keep it!"

• "We had a bizarre assortment of personalities (on the V of C board). Like a potluck supper, everybody brought a different dish."

• "In the first four years of its existence, The Voice of Choice collected over $62,000, about half from local businesses and half from private citizens ... to cover newsletters, newspaper ads, rent for meeting sites, travel, e-mail sites and a respected road consultant to judge the feasibility of the Voice of Choice call for an improved, two lane road."

"Short, well-organized public meetings, up-to-date communications by website, e-mail, newsletters and a great video attracted supporters willing to put their talents to work.

"I thought if I was going to be active fighting this ADOT thing, this sounds like the group I'll work with. They're smart. They have talent, passion."

James Bishop, Member Voice of Choice: Public-state partnerships, the goal of so many towns, happened here--and no one asked about members' political affiliation. We followed Thoreau - "Only hit what you aim at."

Charles Hinkley, Member Voice of Choice: If ever a legacy was left for any city, the completed Highway 179 is beyond our wildest dreams. It is one thing to gather in protest, to argue for change or even stop a project, but quite another to see the result be even beyond what any one of us could have imagined. I am amazed at the beauty of what has been created but also with extreme pride at what we as citizens have done with the cooperative attitude of the people at ADOT and the consistent hard work of Voice of Choice. We can now say "Mission Accomplished".