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The Highway 179 Controversy


by Ivan Finley

SAFE OR UNSAFE? A study funded by A.D.O.T. in 1992 shows that in a five year period from May 1st, 1989 through April 30, 1994 there were 332 accidents on Highway 179.

There were 179 injuries in 113 injury accidents. Three people were killed in two accidents. Two hundred forty of these accidents were inside our city limits, with the greater numbers rising the closer you get to the intersection at 89A. So I think you will agree that if the highway was not safe then, we have done nothing since to make it safer.

ACCIDENTS have been the cause of numerous closures, from a few minutes to five hours - when an egg delivery truck overturned and covered the roadway with fresh omelet material. Others have been: overturned buses, delivery trucks, cement trucks, etc.

ADOT and the City of Sedona have been working on a solution to improve Highway 179 ever since 1992. Public involvement and Agency coordination have been present at every step of the way. A total of five public meetings and over 13 workshops have been held.

A preliminary conceptual design plan was presented to the Sedona City Council in 1998 and again in 1999. The council had some concerns and stated them in a letter to ADOT.

They also formed a "Highway Design Review Committee," despite the illegal participation from a City Council person - with a conflict of interest - who suggested (and the City Council approved) of an additional person to this committee. The new appointee was an outspoken opponent to ADOT'S proposal for Highway 179. This committee was to work with ADOT on having a plan and design that the City could accept.
This committee met for several months with ADOT and consultants hired by ADOT to work on the designs. Progress was made and many concessions were agreed upon.

ADOT was very receptive to the committees suggestions. The design speed of the road was lowered, which means that the speed limit posting on signs would be lower - but it also affected the designing of the road. Over 1,300 feet of walls could be completely eliminated and those remaining could be lower in height and less intrusive.

The roadway within the City Limits generally followed the present right-of way. The committee voted that their work was finished and sent a recommendation to the city council that would allow ADOT to go to the next stage.

The City and the community will have a lot to say about the final design and participate in all phases of things like wall designs, colors landscaping, sidewalks. ADOT had already agreed that the design in front of the Hillside and Tlaguepaque areas would be changed so that those businesses would not be harmed.
Keep Sedona Beautiful's latest article stated that the plan of the highway's width was only narrowed eight feet, but that saved the parking lot in front of Hillside and the wall in front of Tlaquepaque.
The City of Sedona is the only entity that still has to say "let's go". Yavapai County has approved, Coconino County has approved, the Forest Service has approved, the Village of Oak Creek has approved.

Where's Sedona?
FIX IT OR NOT? Do we have any options?

Certainly, we can keep bickering and delay it forever. A very vocal and determined minority plan on doing everything in their power to see that this road does not get improved, even close to ADOT standards. They also think they can speak for all of us, that they know better, can design better and know better than experts on what our traffic will be in years to come.

ADOT can also abandon the highway as part of the Arizona State Highway System. They have already threatened to do that.

In fact, they have taken the first step that they would have to do in order to follow through with that idea. THEY HAVE ALREADY DECLARED HIGHWAY 179 TO BE UNSAFE. We already knew that, didn't we?
If this comes to pass (ADOT abandoning the road), then what happens? It becomes a Yavapai County road to the Coconino County line, it becomes a Coconino County road up to the Sedona City Limits and a Sedona road inside our City Limits.


We do, the City of Sedona, Yavapai and Coconino, all in our areas of responsibility. As we have always appeared to be the step-child of these two parents, what reason do we have to believe this arrangement could come to pass. With the history of Sedona and its SEWER,do you have the confidence that we could design, finance and build a road? I don't.

ADOT is the best and only answer. They have the money budgeted over the next few years. They have the expertise for designing, for hiring the most qualified contractors to build it. Their preliminary design shows that we could safely come and go, we could get on and off the highway on the streets where we live.
There would be at least nine pullouts for our beloved tourists to stop and take pictures. Then, we could all live to bicker about something else.

Please let us know how you feel. Use the "Post a Response" link below to voice your opinion .
Let us hear from YOU.

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