Mon, Feb. 24

Letter: ‘Road to Nowhere’ a huge threat to Middle Verde way of life


Residents of the Verde Valley know we have MANY high priority traffic needs – like improving Hwy 179 and Cornville Road, as well as creating bypasses for major Hwy 89A and 260 interchanges. I do not envy the folks in Sedona and VOC, as they grapple with ever more congested roads.

Yavapai County got lucky and was awarded a $25M grant of taxpayer money for a Middle Verde bridge and connection with W Middle Verde Road, so that, rather than deal with high priority transportation problems, it could elevate a low-priority traffic idea born in the 1990s, a north-south connection between Cornville Road and 260 through Middle Verde.

But inspection proves the road isn’t much of a connection at all; in fact, it does little, if anything, to help with existing traffic problems. At best it would simply be a road that moved more people to the same traffic problems faster. At worst it’s what some have called, “The Road to Nowhere,” which begs the question: “Why?”

When in doubt, as the saying goes, follow the money. When we examine the 260 corridor, we begin to see where and, perhaps more importantly, who would benefit. The proposed road would create and deliver residents to future business interests - the Hwy 260 commercial corridor. Even though the corridor will develop in its own time, there are those who would like to give it a nudge.

The tax-paid grant is just a drop in the bucket, so we should also remember who will be paying. Highway construction down the rough-as-a-cob White Hills cliffs would be one of the most expensive, per mile engineering feats ever conceived in our County. We just spent over $62M to widen relatively flat Hwy 260. And the bridge? In order to handle the sorts of floods we saw this winter, or worse by three-fold in 1993, it would have to be a doozy. US News and World Report (Dec 12, 2018) put the bridge with a short connector to Middle Verde Rd at nearly $30M.

Like sheep we are being led into a much bigger tax bill, with overrides.

Middle Verde is a quiet, rural and agricultural neighborhood. It has always been a dead-end road. Nearly a dozen farms provide fodder for livestock and produce for local farmers markets and CSAs. To preserve historical character and buffer the River, Camp Verde’s General Plan encourages low density housing and farms in Middle Verde.

But we all know what major highways that connect urban areas do to rural land, especially irrigated farmland. Middle Verde will be chopped up and sold. Welcome to the history of Phoenix and, sorry, Sedona, as the lights of Anthem marching up I-17 get steadily brighter.

The Middle Verde Corridor contains one of the largest and last stands of Cottonwood/Willow riparian habitat. Many of the animals and plants that live there are “obligates,” meaning they can only exist around the River. Oddly, I suppose many of us who live in Middle Verde feel the same way.

But Yavapai County has $25M of taxpayer money, so what should it do?

I know what our dear friend and neighbor, George Kovacovich, whose family has farmed Middle Verde for over 100 years, would have said: “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

So let’s be honest: Middle Verde Road, the farms that protect the Verde River corridor and the rural residents of Middle Verde, including all the plants and animals, would simply be collateral damage of a scheme that, at best, is a simple traffic feint of hand meant to take our eyes off real transportation problems, or, at worst, is a road we will all pay for dearly, not for ourselves but for those who would profit, and with a piece of our souls.

Folks, let’s not pave (through) paradise just to put up another parking lot.

Todd Scantlebury

Middle Verde

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