Wed, April 08

Editorial: ‘If everybody takes the fastest route, would it still be the fastest?’

VVN/Vyto Starinskas

VVN/Vyto Starinskas

Our Friday story concerning the use of Arizona Department of Transportation overpass signs to disperse traffic congestion raised a most interesting comment from one of our readers on social media.

The electronic signage at Sunset Point alerts northbound drivers on Interstate 17 to the drive times to Sedona via State Route 179 vs. State Route 260.

To which reader Ian Alexander replied: “If everybody takes the fastest route, would it still be the fastest?”

Excellent question.

Which underscores the need for more of these electronic signs at Cordes Junction, and the Interstate 17-SR 169 interchange.

In the future, such electronic signage should also include the drive times using the Verde Connect route once it is decided and constructed.

The theory behind alerting motorists to the alternate routes leading to Sedona isn’t so much because ADOT is interested in saving you travel time, but more as an effort to disperse traffic to ease the weekend logjam on SR 179 through the Village of Oak Creek leading to Uptown Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon.

Certainly, routing traffic to SR 260 – roundabouts and all – will obviously help the traffic situation on 179 and Sedona’s notorious “Y” intersection.

It also could be a boon to Cottonwood, Clarkdale and Jerome tourism as many of those drivers might decide a day in the Upper Verde is preferred to the weekend traffic quagmire so often seen in Sedona.

The impact of this traffic diversion on the Village of Oak Creek economy and community is also intriguing. Because VOC is not incorporated, the community’s leaders did not have a voice in the discussions about these electronic traffic signs. But former Big Park Council President Thomas Graham made some astute observations about the problem in a 2018 commentary in The Villager newspaper.

Responding to criticism about 179 being a two-lane bifurcated roadway as opposed to four lanes – and that being part of the region’s traffic problem – Graham responded, “Some officials call 179 a ‘failing road.’ It is not a ‘failing road’ - it is delivering its traffic to the ‘Y.’” It is the man-made bottlenecks at Tlaquepaque, the ‘Y’ and beyond that are failing the mission to keep traffic flowing.”

That’s obviously the challenge facing the City of Sedona.

If, as Graham contends, SR 179 is doing its job of delivering travelers to Sedona, the VOC business community has to be concerned about the lost revenue to its community by having that traffic diverted to SR 260 and making West Sedona the entrance to Red Rock Country.

But, if SR 179’s two-lane design is a contributing factor to the Sedona logjam, it’s only fair to ask if the Verde Connect is a solution to that problem or will it make it worse?

With Verde Connect, northbound travelers will have the choice of traveling to Red Rock Country direct via 179, or take the new alternate route that ultimately will intersect with SR 179 via Beaverhead Flat Road. All those same drivers will be taking aim on Sedona, but now from different directions.

Who knows what the long-term solution to Sedona’s traffic woes will be?

The short-term solution is the new drive-time alert sign at Sunset Point.

Adding two more of these signs at Cordes Junction and the I-17-SR 169 overpass should be an ADOT priority.

Otherwise, as Mr. Alexander astutely observed, “If everybody takes the fastest route, would it still be the fastest?”

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