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Voice of Choice:
ADOT’s Hwy 179 Plan is "Unacceptable"
Councilman: City Was Misinformed
by Steve Nahmanson
Sedona City Councilman

It is disheartening to hear the proponents of the widening of State Route (SR) 179 make the statements that the sole purpose of Voice of Choice for 179 is to delay the improvements that are needed for our city’s gateway road. Nothing could be further from the truth. Voice of Choice for 179 (VOC) is a group of committed, bright citizens of the Greater Sedona area who are convinced that the proposed Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) Alternative C is the wrong solution for Highway 179.

The ADOT solution appears to be arrived at in Phoenix by a staff person who looked at the traffic counts and extrapolated them into a four- and five-lane highway, without any regard for the scenic nature of the road or the concerns of the area residents.

My personal concern for the highway was one of the reasons I decided to run for City Council. After the fiasco with the street lights uptown, I could no longer feel comfortable sitting back and just complaining. It was time for my voice to be heard. On April 14, I spoke before the State Transportation Board (STB) in Flagstaff to express my concerns as a newly elected councilman. I received some gratifying feedback from my appearance. The STB had not previously heard of any complaints about the proposed improvements. It was after this that VOC was organized.

VOC began to investigate possible alternatives to a four lane highway. ADOT claims that the highway needs to be widened because of unsafe conditions, yet they are unable to quote any statistics that indicate that it is less safe than Highway 89A, a five-lane highway.

We are all in agreement that improvements need to be made. VOC suggests eight-foot wide shoulders, additional turnouts for visitors to view the red rocks, and deceleration and left turn lanes at high-traffic intersections. One only needs to travel the brand new section of SR180, just south of the Snow Bowl in Flagstaff, to see the kind of safe two-lane highway that can be constructed and not destroy the scenic nature of an area. Certainly, SR180 as a primary route to the Grand Canyon handles as much traffic as SR179.

ADOT currently proposes three new traffic lights along their proposed widened highway. (There are presently none between Bell Rock Boulevard in the Village of Oak Creek and the intersection of SR89A.) Along with traffic lights comes street lights at the newly signalized intersections. Streetlights that will intrude severely upon our dark skies. The traffic lights alone are sufficiently offensive. Add to that the effect of streetlights and one is not hard put to visualize the further degradation of our quality of life.

One of the most insistent complaints I heard during my campaign for council was the difficulty that residents of subdivisions along 179 had in making left hand turns onto SR179. If the project as

conceived by ADOT comes to fruition, this problem will increase geometrically. The new challenge will be to cross three lanes instead of one to make a left turn. Aha, there is a solution to that you say. Do the same thing we have done along SR89A - install more traffic lights. What is the single most frequently heard comment from longtime residents describing the length of time they have lived in Sedona? "There was only one traffic light in town when I moved here."

Not only do traffic lights and the accompanying street lights affect our quality of life, they also SLOW DOWN TRAFFIC! If it is ADOT’s intention to improve the flow of traffic, then a four- and five-lane roadway is not the answer. As stated above, wider shoulders, turnouts, and deceleration and left turn lanes are.

The issue of SR179 improvements has been on the STB agenda for approximately eight years. Mayor Alan Everett has indicated that the City Council will revisit the issue in the near future. He said, "I am very sensitive to the concerns of the Voice of Choice and Council members who want this item agendized."

The previous council and the SR179 Design Committee was provided with much misinformation by ADOT’s District Engineer and thus was not in a position to properly evaluate the city’s options. Federal money will be available for a two lane "context sensitive" design. Under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), states have the freedom to use their own highway design guidelines on non-National Highway System roads even if the project is the recipient of Federal funding.

The city council has it within its power to say again, as it said in a March 10, 1999 letter to Mary Peters, director of ADOT, "The currently proposed four- and five-lane roadway sections are inconsistent with these goals (of the Sedona Community Plan), will result in a radical change to the character of the Sedona area, and therefore represent AN UNACCEPTABLE SOLUTION."

Just after the results of the County Supervisors primary race were in, I overheard my friend and fellow Rotarian Ivan Finley say, " I sure have a knack of backing losers." Hopefully his streak will continue

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