Thu, July 18

Celebrating the Road: How did we get here?
Thoughts and memories of what really happened in the planning of SR179

• Dick Ellis, former Mayor of Sedona, past President Voice of Choice: Until May of 2000, the City of Sedona was scheduled to have SR 179 replaced with a 4-5 lane Interstate-type highway that would be straight, flat and wider than I-17.

In the belief that this type of highway would not be appropriate for this beautiful scenic area, many citizens spoke out and the organization, Voice of Choice for 179 was formed.

With a steering committee of 14-18 members from both Sedona and the Village, the group met weekly for more than three years and less often for some time after that.

Working tirelessly, they researched policies and statistics, discovered options and sought methods to plan a road much more sensitive to the area.

With hundreds of donations from citizens and merchants in the community, the group raised money for informational newsletter mailings, as there were few other sources of accurate information.

In addition, a top national highway engineer was hired by the group to come and assess the realities and needs of our local situation and the feasibility of achieving the type of road the people envisioned for Sedona. He was enthusiastic!

ADOT was not cooperative. It was not until Debra Brisk became their Deputy Director, that civility and respect entered the negotiations.

She brought an understanding of what residents of an area deserve and expect.

She welcomed public input and created what has become an award-winning process of using Charrettes to determine the community's wishes.

The people of the Sedona area responded in great numbers and decided that they wanted the road you see today.

The process of what went in to the creation of this beautiful road is a most astounding example of what CAN be accomplished when the people pull together ... this truly is the people's road.

• June Cornelison, Former two-time Mayor of Sedona, past President Voice of Choice:

Margaret Mead in 1935 was far more creative than I am able to be.  Margaret said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,  committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing  that has." 

In our case, the group of thoughtful committed citizens was known as Voice of Choice for 179 and we had ADOT change its idea of a  four-five lane roadway from south of the Village to uptown Sedona into the  beautiful highway it has become.  Anyone interested in what we had to  go through should read Janet Sabina's small book, "Can't we DO something? Memoir of Resistance to a Four-Lane Highway."

• Jim Gibson, member Voice of Choice: I just wanted to say that the completion of the reconfigured Highway 179 is the final culmination of a dream come true. 

Thanks go out to a few dedicated people who persuaded ADOT to consider an alternative to their original four-lane concept.

Thanks to ADOT for listening and involving the community in a process that resulted in a roadway reflecting the values and desires of the community. 

Finally, thanks to the community members who cared enough about our area to participate in the process of determining the character of this road.  A character that closely matches the values of our community.  Thanks to all!

• Gail Shaw Simpson, Voice of Choice Member: I'll never forget the first town meeting called about ADOT's decision to build their enormous freeway through our red rocks.

The packed room was electric with emotion. What could we do to stop this? No one has ever stopped ADOT from doing what they will!

But the people came together for their right to be heard and for the love of this area.

They became members of Voice of Choice or they were steadfast supporters with letters and petitions and donations and their time spent at Charrettes and talking with their neighbors.

What a privilege it has been to work with such honorable people in our Sedona/Village community and in ADOT as well.

Thank you for your passion and fighting for what's right. The celebration we hold this month is all about YOU!