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City to pay bulk of $250K study

Sedona Red Rock News of Sedona, Arizona

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Traffic study funding assisted by counties, chamber and hotels

During last year's election for Sedona mayor and a trio of council seats, the most asked question of the candidates was one that has been around for years, "What are you going to do about traffic?"

Mayor Sandy Moriarty reminded her fellow board members of this fact during the Oct. 28-Sedona City Council meeting in which a comprehensive traffic study was discussed. Even though no action was taken that night, council gave direction to staff to proceed with the study.

"If we're not willing to do something that comes out of this study, I'm going to resign because I've had it," she said. "I'm serious. I'm dedicated to getting something done."

The city budgeted $250,000 for the traffic study for the current fiscal year. Staff had applied for a Planning Assistance for Rural Areas grant in that amount through the Arizona Department of Transportation. However, in May the city was notified that even though the grant request was a worthy one, due to budget cuts it was denied.

To date, both Yavapai and Coconino counties have each pledged $20,000 for the study while the Sedona Chamber of Commerce is kicking in $25,000 and another $5,000 from the Sedona Lodging Council. Unless ADOT contributes to the cost, the city will be responsible for the remaining $180,000.

"Unfortunately we haven't had such a positive response from ADOT," Assistant City Manager Karen Daines said. "That goes for both their willingness to be a financial partner and their willingness to have staff, let alone a key decision maker, at the table as we undergo this process."

She said it's crucial to have ADOT's assistance since state routes 179 and 89A [aside from Uptown] are owned by the state. Without their support, she said making any changes or improvements to the town's two major thoroughfares may be impossible.

Daines said staff is recommending going out to bid to hire a consulting firm that will take the previous studies and fill in the gaps since then by way of updated traffic counts and new technology. The hiring process is estimated to take about 90 days but the amount of time to complete the study has yet to be determined.

She said past studies, as well as lesser in-depth ones since then, have suggested the city install medians, widen roads to add lanes, neighborhood connections and overhead pedestrian crosswalks in Uptown.

"These are all things that have never been implemented," Daines said. "That's because we get push back. Anything that requires change is likely to garner push back from someone or ones. This is going to be an exercise in a willingness to make changes that may not be supported by everyone."

She added if council does decide to proceed with any suggestions from the study, there is no identified funding for projects in the near future. She said there may be some "low-hanging fruit" type of projects that could be budgeted but the rest may have to wait.

While it was mentioned that existing traffic and parking studies have been commissioned in the past, the city does not currently have an updated comprehensive circulation study. The last one was completed nearly 20 years ago.

"Due to the age of some of these studies, variations in focus, changes in conditions, and evolving best practices, staff supports completing an updated comprehensive circulation study," a city report states.

Any projects council decides to pursue will have to be cost effective and ones that will truly make an impact on the ongoing problem, City Manager Justin Clifton said. Even then, he said the issue of traffic may never go away. He also warned council that it should be prepared for the high cost of any approved projects and, as Daines pointed out, negative feedback they may receive from the public.

"None of these are going to solve the problem," he said in regard to suggested improvements. "None of these are going to be so large that they'll suffice as a beginning and none will be so large that they'll suffice as an end. Some people, after a million dollars here or a million dollars there and after four years or maybe 10, will still say there's a traffic problem. We should have in mind if we're moving forward with this that it's going to be expensive and that there will be a lot more little things than big things."

The current Sedona Community Plan lists the following as circulation goals:

Reduce dependency on single-occupancy vehicles.

Provide for safe and smooth flow of traffic.

Coordinate land use and transportation planning and systems.

Make the most efficient use of the circulation system for long-term community benefit.

Limit the building of new roads and streets and make strategic investments in other modes of travel.

Create a more walkable and bikeable community.

Clifton pointed out that even though the $250,000 may sound like a lot, in comparison, the city spends a little more than that to repave every mile of city streets.

Councilwoman Jessica Williamson said it's not the cost or scope that concerns her, it's the political will of the council.

"What I'm worried about is if this is going to be another study that sits on the shelf because we can't and won't do anything about it," she said.

Ron Eland can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 122 or by email at reland@larsonnewspapers.com

"If we're not willing to do something that comes out of this study, I'm going to resign because I've had it."

Sandy Moriarty

Sedona Mayor



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Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015



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