Earlier this year, the Prescott/Quad Cities area received some unfortunate news. Due to cuts in the Arizona Department of Transportation’s (ADOT) budget, a plan to widen the southern portion of Highway 89 north of Prescott between SR 89A and Deep Well Ranch Road had to be removed from the five-year program.
Fortunately, ADOT is still proceeding with plans to widen the northern segment of Highway 89 from Chino Valley to Deep Well Ranch Road in the spring of 2014; however, failing to expand the southern segment will create a bottleneck of high volume traffic in the middle of Highway 89 as four lanes become two.
This is a critical project for the region – necessary to improve safety and traffic circulation, while facilitating access in support of commerce. Approximately 20,000 cars travel this stretch of road every day, which is almost as much traffic as on the I-17 north of Cordes Junction. In order to get the project back on track, it requires a new approach that provides additional leverage for it and makes the case to ADOT that it should be prioritized and returned to the work schedule.
Last month, in a significant demonstration of regional cooperation, the City of Prescott and Yavapai County approved an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) that would commit $6 million to realign Willow Creek Road, while ADOT and the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization (CYMPO) entered into an IGA for $1.2 million in funding for the ADOT SR 89 widening project between SR 89A and Deep Well Ranch Road. An IGA between the ADOT and City of Prescott provides for the future city ownership, operation and maintenance of the southern segment of SR 89 upon completion of its widening by ADOT. These agreements were implemented in a proactive local approach to influence regional transportation at the state level and encourage reconsideration by the ADOT Board of a revised transportation construction plan restoring the south Highway 89 widening project into the five-year program.
The partnership between ADOT, City of Prescott, Yavapai County and CYMPO provides for the following via the Intergovernmental Agreements:
- Assigns responsibilities for the costs of engineering, construction, ownership and maintenance of realigned Willow Creek Road.
- The City of Prescott will assume jurisdiction and maintenance of the realigned Willow Creek Road upon its completion.
- Stipulates the terms for city acceptance of Highway 89 are contingent on ADOT’s approval and widening of the southern segment of Highway 89. James Lane and Highway 89, between SR 89A and Deep Well Ranch Road, will be under city jurisdiction when the Highway 89 widening project is completed.
It is too soon to know whether this partnership will be successful in bringing back this project in the short term. Early indications are positive and we are confident that taking this new approach will make a difference for this project moving forward. Going through this process as a member of CYMPO has been a helpful learning experience for everyone involved and I believe the lessons learned with this partnership will be incredibly valuable as we embark on future transportation projects. QCBN
Chris Kukyno is a Prescott City Councilman and Prescott’s representative on the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization.