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Mon, Dec. 16

Highway access<br>issues studied

VALLE — Expected future growth up and down the State Route 64 corridor between Williams and Grand Canyon raises concerns not only for area residents, but also the Arizona Department of Transportation.

In meetings Wednesday at Williams and Thursday at Valle, a Phoenix engineering firm working under ADOT met with the public to discuss access management to SR64. The firm, DMJM-Harris, is heading up the study, which looks at how to maintain access to properties adjacent to the highway while preserving the safe flow of traffic.

"It looks like they’re approaching this organized and thoughtful," said Barry Baker, a consultant for Elling Halvorson and John Seibold in the Tusayan-Valle area. "I think whoever started getting this up did a good job."

Area residents may have noticed the ADOT aerial surveys that had gone on last year. The result of those surveys adorned the walls around the Grand Canyon Valle Airport. Baker and the other dozen or so people in attendance met with engineers to discuss particular areas of concern.

"I see some problems here in Valle," said John Rueter, resident and businessman in the Valle-Tusayan area. "I’d like to see plenty of access. Traffic needs to be slowed down. They’ve addressed it some here."

Motorists have been known to zip right through Valle at the highway speed of 65 mph or even faster, ignoring the posted speed limit signs which attempt to slow people down to 55 entering Valle and then 45 in the business district.

Valle businessman Willie Collins was among those who chatted with engineers about his concerns. Collins owns and operates business property near the intersection of SR64 and U.S. 180. Access to Valle Travel Stop from U.S. 180 had been a topic of conversation in the past.

Rueter there should be considerations about how to improve a Valle road that runs diagonally from SR64 to U.S. 180.

"One of the key roads in the future of Valle is Pine Street," Rueter said. "It comes out on 180 at a diagonal direction, which needs to be modified. For local traffic in the future, there needs to be solutions for intercommunity traffic. The mistake is not allowing for that."

Pine Street runs from east off SR64 a few miles south of Valle and connects with U.S. 180. Rueter said roads like that can create future havoc when the area grows.

"If you don’t think it can change overnight, you need to get a grip on yourself," Rueter said, pointing to area growth in the past few years alone.

"As far as reacting to State Route 64 being improved, that’s very, very important," Baker said. "It’s critical to safety ... if (Grand Canyon visitation) projections are anywhere close."

Rueter said Cimarron Strip Road will be another Valle street with could see access problems. Businesses there would need full access to the highway.

Besides the one-on-one communication between engineers and the public, DMJM-Harris associate vice president Steve O’Brien staged a slide show to go over the various goals of the access management study.

O’Brien stressed that at this point, it was only a study, nothing has been funded, and public comment was being collected. Information is being collected for the development of short-term and long-range plans. A final report is expected by September.

DMJM-Harris had done a full review of the highway, including a look at permit information, and took traffic counts in July of last year. Future traffic projections were also calculated using various sources of information. They are working with projections of 8,500 cars going through Williams and 24,000 through Tusayan per day during the peak season.

"This study will not look specifically at improvements. We need to manage access onto 64 and 180," O’Brien said, who added that he had met with about 10 various property and business owners on the matter.

From the information collected, the firm developed alternative access management techniques with the main considerations being safety. O’Brien said maintaining safety, retaining the capacity on public roadways and providing reasonable access were the main purposes.

"Fewer accidents is what we’re going for," O’Brien said. "Speeding on the road is a big concern. If we don’t control access ... it’s really going to affect the operation and safety of the roadway."

Prolonging the life of the highway and supporting local development were two other benefits O’Brien cited for the access management study.

O’Brien got into conflict points associated with SR64 and said developing a plan with right-hand turns reduces the number of possible accident scenarios. Everything from frontage roads to medians with left-turn bays to traffic controls have been studied.

Major access point spacing, as O’Brien calls it, is another aspect of the study. In rural areas, there needs to be a minimum of one-mile spacing between access points but the desirable number is two-mile spacing.

In urban areas, the access point spacing number goes down to every half mile.

A separate ongoing ADOT State Route 64 study involves the possible widening of the highway. That topic was not addressed Thursday and is a separate issue for ADOT and the county. A public scoping meeting on SR64 widening is expected to occur this summer.

O’Brien said ADOT and Coconino County have been the main partners in the access management study. Others partners include the City of Williams, Northern Arizona Council of Governments, Kaibab National Forest, Grand Canyon National Park and the engineering firm of DMJM-Harris.

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