In an effort to save the southern half of the long-awaited Highway 89 widening, local officials are maintaining that postponement of the project could "severely impact" the safe and efficient movement of traffic.
In a letter to the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), the region's transportation-planning group is making the case for retaining the proposed Highway 89 widening from the Highway 89A intersection to just north of Ruger Road.
ADOT reported last week that its latest recommended version of the five-year program no longer included the section of the widening that is closest to Prescott.
For years, the entire widening between Prescott and Chino Valley was part of the five-year program.
The section that runs from the southern boundary of Chino Valley to the future Deep Well Ranch Road (about 1,000 feet north of Ruger Road) is still in the program, and is scheduled to get started by late this summer.
But while construction on the portion closest to Prescott was scheduled to take place in fiscal year 2016, the state's tentative plan for the next five years no longer includes that project - a move that would defer the project until sometime after 2018.
The Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization (CYMPO) Executive Board agreed Wednesday night to send a letter to ADOT, urging the Arizona State Transportation Board to retain the Highway 89-to-Deep Well Ranch Road widening project in the fiscal-year 2014-to- 2018 program.
CYMPO Administrator Chris Bridges explained that ADOT's dwindling revenues had led to the need for the state to cut about $350 million from its five-year plan.
In response, ADOT had proposed three options: one that would focus almost exclusively on preservation of existing roads; one that would retain major projects, but would eliminate most preservation of roads and bridges; and one that would combine the two, retaining some of the major projects, and reducing preservation projects.
After Wednesday's meeting, Deputy State Engineer Dallas Hammit said that ADOT staff is recommending the third option. To do that, however, the state would have to eliminate several major projects in rural Arizona. Among the recommended deferrals: the 89A-to-Deep Well Ranch Road; the Mohawk rest area project on Interstate 8; the Silver King section of Highway 60; and the Lion Springs section of Highway 260.
Meanwhile, Bridges said CYMPO would continue to push to retain both sections of the Highway 89 widening.
"We need to go and demonstrate to ADOT that this is a valuable project and we're disappointed it's coming out," Bridges said. "But it's going to be an uphill task."
Prescott City Councilman and CYMPO representative Chris Kuknyo maintained that leaving a short section of two-lane highway on the route between Chino Valley and Prescott would "move that bottleneck down further and would not really solve the problem."
Before ADOT's new five-year plan becomes final, public hearings will take place at the next three Arizona State Transportation Board meetings: March 8 in Phoenix; April 12 in Tucson; and May 10 in Flagstaff. The board is expected to take a final vote on the five-year program at the June 14 meeting in Pinetop-Lakeside.
While local support can help to persuade the State Transportation Board, Hammit pointed out that other affected communities also would likely make pitches for their own projects.