GUEST COMMENTARY: Verde Connect creates more problems than it solves
Your Jan. 31 editorial concerning the Verde Connect project missed an opportunity to inform the public that the road proposals promoted by Verde Connect are clearly described in the Verde Valley Master Transportation Plan (VVMTP) of September 2016 available online at AZDOT.
Any issue of road projects involving West Middle Verde cannot be discussed constructively without people knowing what those two study documents proposed.
Even though Verde Connect quotes the descriptions in that document, not once in the online Verde Connect website or during the two Verde Connect unofficial public meetings in September and October 2018 did any official directly point the public to that indispensable study report – only making a general statement that “it has been in the transportation plans for years.”
This omission is inexcusable because the roads are only proposals that were put to traffic modeling which the 2016 VVMTP found that those would not solve the problems for which they were proposed. Would Supervisors Garrison and Thurman read the statement on the 2016 VVMTP, page 83: “Improvements in Alternates 1 to 3 did not relieve congestion on SR 179.” Alternate 2 refers to Project #M-14 extending W. Middle Verde and Alternate 3 refers to Project L-6, paving Forest Road 119A.
Therefore, Supervisor Garrison’s and Supervisor Thurman’s assertions in your March 29, 2018 newspaper, “179 is definitely a problem going into Sedona and this will help relieve that,” are incorrect and unsupported by the 2016 VVMTP. Why then is it being pursued?
According to the 2016 VVMTP, on page 179, Project M-14: Middle Verde Extension, would be 2.5 miles for a two-lane local route with a cost estimate of $7.5 million, and would need a bridge. That’s a lot of money for only 2.5 miles that Yavapai County, Verde Valley and Camp Verde taxpayers will be expected to pay for through more taxes, for years.
On page 189, the VVMTP also states: “if Cornville Road was widened to four lanes, paving Forest Road 119A would not be necessary.” Why then is this being pursued?
It was announced in December 2018 that $25 million in federal funds had been secured for a bridge over the Verde River, with $10 million in local – i.e. county and town funds to also be applied to the project. $35 million is a lot for 7.5 miles for a project that a master transportation study found wouldn’t help anything.
Further, according to the 2016 VVMTP, ‘Capacity Related Improvement Options,’ on page 75, by the ‘traffic demand model’ of current to future traffic loads projected to 2040, the VVMTP study found that the Middle Verde Extension would be ‘near capacity’ by 2040. That means a steady stream of traffic rapidly approaching the point of over-capacity just a few years after expensive construction ends. What then? Widen it to increase traffic volume, noise and disruption? The Verde Valley is flanked by a mountain range and a ridge. The noise already from both I-17 and S.R. 260 is heard day and night.
Camp Verde voters ratified the 2016 Town of Camp Verde Master Plan that expressly established a community desire to preserve what the Plan calls the W. Middle Verde Character Area. A new throughway corridor road that no one in Camp Verde petitioned for that would destroy part of W. Middle Verde, throw out property owners and make a mockery of the 2016 Town of Camp Verde Master Plan citizen ratification vote is a potentially extremely serious breach of the public trust.
In October 2018, County Supervisor Randy Garrison said in the Verde Independent, “the unfortunate impact on a few” referring to ROW - Right of Way confiscations. There are now tens of millions of dollars in funding obtained for construction, but nothing yet for reimbursement of property owners. So, perhaps will Supervisors Garrison and Thurman explain to devastated Camp Verde residents how that’s supposed to work ... humanely, that is?
With elected officials, isn’t it for the purpose of having people who will represent them and be advocates for and defenders of the public, not to lobby for or sign off on committing their constituents to years of increased debt burdens and destruction of private properties for projects no one asked for, nor were ever asked if they wanted or needed them?
Despite using generic claims of ‘respondents agree that faster emergency response times are good,’ Verde Connect is an outside imposed project, not a locally requested one.
Do Yavapai County Supervisors Randy Garrison and Thomas Thurman respect the will of the people in Camp Verde as expressed in their approval of the 2016 Town of Camp Verde Master Plan or do they think it’s not important? Why do they think Camp Verde property owners should give up what Sedona property owners refused to give up? Is it ever a good thing to pit neighbors and neighboring towns against each other? What efforts have they made to get county taxes reduced for citizens instead of increased?
The Verde Valley is poised to be one of the world’s premier wine regions. This may come as a surprise to many, but its Mediterranean climate, limestone ridges and quiet influx of a number of world-class winemakers has already resulted in the production of some truly exceptional wines.
How can Camp Verde benefit from this? Its relaxed rural/residential/agriculture mix is an excellent base for it. Needlessly paving over properties, adding noise, inviting in more traffic congestion and degrading the rich local ecological character of the land, the town and the people isn’t the way.