Sat, July 20

Editorial: Now the hard part begins on Verde Connect project

When the Feb. 20, 1993, Verde River flood left Cottonwood’s lone bridge crossing terribly compromised, it became obvious we needed a second bridge crossing over the river.

It took years to accomplish, but in the end the Mingus Avenue extension project provided the added security of having a second bridge crossing. Perhaps more importantly, it also established a new and valuable transportation link that extended Mingus Avenue to Cornville Road all the way to Interstate 17 and beyond to the Beaver Creek communities.

This week, Yavapai County received notification of a $25 million federal transportation grant to build another Verde River bridge crossing between Cottonwood and Camp Verde.

It’s all part of the county’s “Verde Connect” project that will link Arizona 260 with Cornville Road, most likely as a complete pass-through with Beaver Head Flat Road.

As was the case with the Mingus Avenue extension, the Verde Connect project will have to jump through numerous federal environmental protection hoops that address endangered species, in particular the cliff rose.

But what might be even more difficult than that is agreeing on the exact path this road will take and how it addresses the need of getting people from Point A to Point B.

Think back to the Arizona 260 project. In its initial incarnation as a four-lane transportation corridor from Cottonwood to Interstate 17, people generally expressed support for the project.

But there is this thing called the devil in the details.

Protests of the adequacy of access points on this 260 “transportation corridor” and debates that the road should become an “economic corridor” for Camp Verde ultimately led to the compromise that today is a succession of seven roundabouts between Thousand Trails and Interstate 17.

It’s now a done deal, but the grumbling certainly has not stopped.

That’s the big challenge with any new road. Where does it go and how does it hurt or help the property owners in its path. Those concerns can be easily resolved when there is a clear understanding of how the road effectively moves people from Point A to Point B, one of the truly realized benefits of the Mingus Avenue Extension.

For Yavapai County, the hard part of this project now begins.

What path will this road take, and will it truly address the most important transportation needs of the Verde Valley?