By Mike Schroeder, Sedona Citizen
(September 7, 2017)
I am a little behind in my reading but I did see and appreciate the article that Dick Ellis wrote on August 2nd concerning our battle for the redo of SR179. I was there with Dick for those weekly meetings – for years – the fund raisers, the political theatrics, the replacement of certain city council members and the countless treks to ADOT meetings all over the state. We were and still are very proud of what we accomplished, especially when we realized the total scope of what ADOT, the interstate builders, was proposing.
I know that there has been talk of 20,000 residents in the area, maybe that includes areas outside the Village and Sedona, which totals about 17,000, 10,000 being in Sedona. That really has not changed much, Big Park went up a bit and Sedona has not changed but one thousand in 13 years. The Chamber of Commerce was touting 4 million tourists in the early 2000s, which would have been an average of 3600 tourist cars a day, average 3 people, 365 days a year. Considering “bunching” on holidays is the norm, not much has changed.
ADOT’s original 4 lane highway was 7 lanes on many intersections when you added the left and right turn lanes. Imagine 7 lanes on SR179 plus a median. As wide as 89A to Cottonwood or even I17. Why was this a bad idea? Many reasons, which is why we raised money and brought in a highway expert to get a different perspective, as Dick mentioned in the article. And contrary to what Christopher Fox of the Red Rock News said in a large op-ed, the concept that was presented was not adopted to please our hired road consultant, Mr. Walter Kulash of Georgia, who gained nothing from the final road design. His concepts, and our learning process was invaluable when ADOT held the public forums (Charetts) so the people could have an input on the final design.
Over the many years we worked on this project, much data from other roads all over the country came to light. These issues have never really been discussed much, although there was a 112 page book that was written on the project by one of our members, titled “Can’t We Do Something? Memoir of Resistance To A Four-Lane Highway” by Janet Sabina. Yes, you can fight city hall.
The reason I bring this up at all, is obvious. We have traffic issues, and we are promoting “drive through” to the Grand Canyon. Many folks who I have met on Back O Beyond Road who just stop and take a few picture are on the way to the Grand Canyon. The Sedona City Council just dropped a Quarter of a Million bucks for a traffic study telling us what we already knew. That the majority of the fixes require cooperation with ADOT, the county and residents outside the city limits of Sedona. And after our little debacle on the city taking back, then flipping, of the 118’ corridor from the “Y” to the High School, I don’t think we are on ADOT’s “A” list.
Some of the “fixes” also discussed by Mr. Max Bacon in response to Dick’s article, were electronic signage showing backups coming either down the mountain through Oak Creek Canyon, or coming in from I17 on SR179. These have been discussed for YEARS, to no avail. Signage at 260 suggesting a western entrance to Sedona on 89a keeping folks off SR179 has been requested for years, but ADOT refused. Low water crossing at Red Rock state park, nada. We have two roads and that’s it.
Many of us have shifted a lot of our shopping to the Village, if you live out by the Chapel or Back O’ Beyond area, if you don’t want a 45 minute or hour wait on holidays, you know the drill. And for those who still promote a four lane (up to 7 wide) I fail to understand why that is even a discussion when there is never a backup SOUTH BOUND on SR179. And I do not see the forest service or ADOT making 89A from UPTOWN to the top of the Mogollon Rim 4 lane anytime soon. So put 8 lanes into uptown and see what happens. Fluid dynamics of decreasing space which increases flow does not quite work with traffic.
Statistics, and these are for my friend Mr. Fox at the Red Rock News are as follows. In the late 90s and early 2000s almost every piece of real estate was up for sale along SR179, as the “word” was out that ADOT was planning a big commercial highway all the way into the heart of Sedona. The real estate people were licking their chops, and businesses were lining up to take advantage of the changing situation. Let me pose a question – who has been over on route 69 in Prescott Valley? Is that what you want for Sedona? There is something called “Induced Traffic”, you build it and they will come. Commercial establishments create their own traffic, outdoor lighting and noise. And you can go anywhere in the US and see the result of “induced traffic”. We did not need a commercial corridor down SR179, we already had that in west Sedona. How does that look?
Speed control was also a big safety concern. All roads have to be designed to safely carry traffic 20 mph faster than posted speed. Can you control that with policing, to a small extent. But at 35 mph posted you are now mixing 55 mph traffic with locals who see our beautiful red rocks everyday with tourists – like every one of us were doing the first time here, with traffic that is gong an annoying 25 mph. That is a very dangerous situation. And for those who do not think that is an issue, try staying at 35mph on the bifurcated road in the forest when it goes to two lanes SOUTHBOUND or right out of the Village, past the Bell Rock parking lot two lanes NORTHBOUND. I have personally seen 65mph on MANY MANY occasions. (And more).
People sometimes complain about the roundabouts, but people do not die in roundabouts when you are going 15 mph, hard to go faster through those than that reduced speed. Worst case you get a fender bender with two cars meeting at 45 degree angles. Does anyone recall the head on deaths we had on SR179 before the new road and median was installed? Has anyone (I have) witnessed a T Bone accident in front of you on SR179? My experience was seeing one at Chapel road. Not a pretty sight. Fortunately the two girls who got T boned (one was pregnant) were not seriously injured. Back in Indianapolis, where I grew up and still frequent, signals and 4 way stop signs are being removed and replaced as fast as they can with roundabouts. Europe has been using them for decades.
Adding more lanes to Northbound SR179 just brings more people faster to uptown and jams it up. Everything we looked at, especially the traffic counts on what people did when they got to the “Y” told the tale of a log jam. 5 lanes, 7 lanes etc. never was going to fix the problem as more traffic would have been attracted to the area. That was the pattern in every area that we studied, and you cannot expect people to keep their homes next to that kind of roadway – again look at 69 going in to Prescott Valley. No houses, just businesses.
I am sorry Mr. Fox over at the Red Rock News did not have any more insight on this issue. We should all try to promote electronic signage on 89A and 179 to at least warn travelers that there is a big traffic delay. Connector streets in neighborhoods would help some of the locals, and certainly a crossing like we had years ago would benefit the residents of both Sedona and the Village, even if it was a toll bridge where locals had a pass. ADOT and the county have to be involved. So far, that cooperation has been minimal, maybe that will change. Put pressure on these outside entities.
We are not like most tourist towns. Even Silverton has two parallel main streets, albeit one being dirt. We have TWO roads, and it is not going to be easy, but complaining about an award winning design is not going to fix the problems.
Mike is absolutely correct. The traffic problem in Sedona is all about the NUMBER of cars. Everyone in Sedona agrees that there are too many cars except the City Council, the Chamber of Commerce and the RR News. I have tried to get everyone in city government to admit to me that there is an upper limit to the number of cars our small town’s infrastructure can handle. I haven’t found anyone yet who will agree that there is a limit. It’s simple physics. Until we can get those in power to admit that there is an upper limit, we are wasting money on studies and, oh by the way, giving $2 million to the Chamber to get MORE tourists in town. I know people who are fed up and moving away. I know two BUSINESS owners who think that we have too much traffic…BUSINESS owners! All we can do is lobby and vote to try to get some folks in charge who don’t think more is better.
Mike, thank you for all your efforts and the excellent summary of the history of the 179 project! It was perhaps the largest and most successful community effort I’ve seen/participated in my 20 years living in Sedona! A great big thank you to everyone for making it happen! (Thank you Dick and Bill)
If there is one sound-bite here that will throw a wrench in a consideration with a 4-laner:
“And for those who still promote a four lane (up to 7 wide) I fail to understand why that is even a discussion when there is never a backup SOUTH BOUND on SR179.”
Also, a four lane Hwy 179 would not have been earned the title of “All American Road” and in fact the Red Rock Scenic Byway is Arizona’s ONLY All-American Road. Something to be proud of. Note all the commercials filmed on the road!
I am certain that residents and visitors would complain far more if there was a four lane road through this pristine section of 179. AND yet still be left with sitting in traffic!
It is clear the problem stems from having only two Sedona/Verde Valley roads that connect to the I-17; and NOT HAVIING access from the city of Cottonwood to I-17. ADOT said they are going to promote the Hwy. 260 to 89A route to Sedona after the roundabouts are done. I would like to propose the creation of a toll road connecting I-17 to the city of Cottonwood as a means of removing traffic congestion. It only makes sense that all cities have their own direct access to I-17; otherwise the problem will only continue to grow. The question is: WHY DOESN’T COTTONWOOD have its only road connecting to the I-17? Because it takes years to plan and raise funds for a toll road, and get grants, the discussion needs to start NOW. It needs to included in the long term state transportation plans. How could ADOT not realize Cottonwood needs its own connection to the I-17 — to deter tourists and residents of Clarkdale, Cottonwood, Jerome and other towns and cities from having to use Cornville Road or Hwy. 179? IT IS TIME TO CONSIDER A TOLL ROAD or other access to the I-17 outside of Cottonwood to relieve the roadblocks.
Thanks Mike, Tyler and others. If we widen 179, we will still have a bottleneck in Uptown. If we could double the lanes in Uptown, there would still be 20-25 mph bottlenecks in the switchbacks.
Tyler, said: I have tried to get everyone in city government to admit to me that there is an upper limit to the number of cars our small towns infrastructure can handle. I havent found anyone yet who will agree that there is a limit
Tyler, that is because what you are asking is not the job of city government, merchants have rights, land owners have building rights,10,000 peole make ther living in Sedona. Tyler,people have the right to come and see Sedona,
The city can only do what zoning and state laws allows, the city is funded by visitors taxes.
Just get over it, plan for traffic, everything is a trade off…. Nice road one lane WE asked for it!. Visitors taxes help run the city, Yes, traffic on ( weekends). Over 90 % of the time no traffic.(yes real number) two state Hwy. Intersect, we built the city around them. 5+ state parks with 50 miles Grand Canyon 100 north……. Learn to share Sedona.
10,000 people is the population, 10,000 people don’t make their living here. Slight correction but overall a good point.
Maybe there is hope for a crossing again at the Red Rock State park area, if done right, it would benefit residents and have little traffic interest for tourists and a very low impact for the folks along Verde Valley School Road.
That requires county involvement, and when I sit here and look at the money that is being spent by the county, albeit partially funded by private money on Chevez Ranch Road, to support a new subdivision (Under the airport flight path – that will be interesting) maybe the city could come up with a joint plan with the county to make a crossing a reality for the benefit of Sedona city residents as well as the residents of Big Park.
First let me indicate that I agree entirely with Mike Schroeder and the other supporters of the “Voice of Choice for 179” involvement. For disclosure, I was Vice-President of the group from 2000 until elected to City Council in 2002.
I particularly point to Mike’s comments regarding “Induced Traffic” and the likelihood of rezoning property along SR 179 from Residential to Commercial, due to no one desiring to build a personal home in Sedona on a 4-lane highway. This subject is seldom considered by those just wanting 4 lanes. Talk about changing the entire character of “small-town” Sedona!! A few additional comments-
The engineer Voice of Choice chose to assist us in original discussions with ADOT, Walter Kulash, is from Orlando, FL and his (and his firm’s) highway design rationale can be viewed here:
Anyone believing that a 4-lane SR 179 would assist in improving traffic flow does not understand the simple concept of a funnel. If the output of the funnel does not change, i.e., Uptown Sedona and the 2-lane highway up Oak Creek Canyon, it does not matter how big or wide the entrance to the funnel is. The same amount ONLY flows through the small end!
As someone who has been previously appointed to both Yavapai and Coconino county’s transportation advisory committees, I can guarantee to the reading public, that neither county has funds to properly maintain the roads they are currently responsible for, let alone the construction of new roads. The State of Arizona is in exactly the same situation, and if you bring in the US Forest Service (for Schnebly Hill road) the funding situation is even more dire.
The only options available to the public are county-wide votes to increase everyone’s taxes. How likely are Yavapai and Coconino to vote to raise their taxes to help “poor Sedona” on their respective fringes?? If I were a betting man….
Thanks for the correction, I thought Walter was form FL and not GA. I picked it up from Christopher Fox’s opinion piece in RRN.
Mike Shroeder writes: Some of the “fixes” also discussed by Mr. Max Bacon in response to Dick’s article, were electronic signage showing backups coming either down the mountain through Oak Creek Canyon, or coming in from I17 on SR179. These have been discussed for YEARS, to no avail.
Mike, my impression is that ADOT may be more receptive to “real-time travel signage” than they may have been in the past. Hopefully so.
Technology advances coupled with a generation of travelers that use electronic devices almost continuously throughout the day make such solutions even more viable than they were 10 years ago.
I also believe the Oak Creek Traffic Group is interested in reducing drive-thru traffic which, according to the Traffic Study, amounted to 50% of the traffic volume during congested periods.
Real time travel signage combined with a reservation system for campgrounds, trail heads and day-use areas like West Fork, Slide Rock and Grasshopper could possibly eliminate a considerable amount of drive-thru traffic. Oak Creek is a pretty delicate environment and water way and, unfortunately, won’t support an unlimited amount of recreational users.
Mike Shroeder also writes: There is something called “Induced Traffic”, you build it and they will come.
Every traffic engineer would agree with you: more highways, wider roads and higher speeds only encourage MORE traffic.
Many cities are now trying to re-claim their roadways for pedestrians. I’m not convinced that that Sedona should be moving in the opposite direction with proposals like 4 lanes from Schnebly Hill Road to the “Y”.
It seems a lot of people complain about congestion being caused by pedestrian road crossings. The actual cause is a volume of traffic too great for the roadway to handle. Why would they prefer that these pedestrians were in their cars driving from one parking lot to the next?
This whole road widening proposal will definitely not help the problem but a bridge at the end of Verde Valley School Rd. would help locals tremendously. Another aid would be some kind of foot traffic bridge to cross the highway at Tlaque Paque.
As a Realtor it is very hard to show property on event weekends or even get to my office. I can’t help but believe that this traffic problem is going to have an impact on property values as well.
BARBARA GRILLE says:This whole road widening proposal will definitely not help the problem but a bridge at the end of Verve Valley School Rd. Would help locals tremendously.
It all comes down to cost, are we willing to pay millions to cut off travel time to Sedona?
Will the people in the village welcome the traffic? Will the county pick up the cost?
Will the people on the loop road welcom the new traffic.
This is Sedona we fight about everything……no city council will be willing to jump into this…
Sedona will not pick of the cost to speed up travel from the village.
Traffic study said will not help much……
Much better to understand traffic flow and plan trips…. We are a tourist town, I have been fighting traffic from flagstaff for years and on Saturdays I need to plan my trips.
the city traffic plan is good and if we can fix parking in the cayon it will help a little.
The way to cut down on the drive through traffic through Uptown to the Grand Canyon would be to convince the authorities to take away the designations of H179 and 89a through Oak Creek Canyon as “National Scenic Drives”. People see that and it causes them to take the drives on their way North.
Joan Shannon says: “The way to cut down on the drive through traffic through Uptown to the Grand Canyon would be to convince the authorities to take away the designations of Hwys 179 and 89a through Oak Creek Canyon as & National Scenic Drives.
National Scenic Drives.
So this is all about US?
Sedona is a tourist town, most of us came first as tourists, and now you want to take away the national designation, and tell people to not see one of the most beautiful places in America.
Lets stop thinking about stopping visitors and think about moving them through town better.
The new city plan will help and fixing the parking up the canyon will help but we will allways have traffic issues.
The answer lies in understanding we will be busy on weekends in season and changing our own travel plans to work around the traffic.
It is their price we pay to live in the Most Beautiful Place in America
Steve Segner claims Sedona is the Most Beautiful Place in America. Hey, Sedona isn’t even the most beautiful place in Arizona according to USA Today and The Daily Meal, a website specializing in food and drink. Earlier this year both picked Bisbee as Arizona’s prettiest town. The Daily Meal said Bisbee, which “began as a bustling mining town…is now a quaint town of artists and old architectural styles.”
Jean, Is incapable if saying anything nice or positive,abour Sedona Glass always 1/2 empty.
Bisbee is Arizona;s prettiest town.
But is Sedona America’s most Beautiful! Place to visit.
The 10 Most Beautiful Places in America
1. Red Rock Country (Sedona, Ariz.)
Ever since the early days of movies, when Hollywood has wanted to show the unique beauty of the West, it has gone to Sedona, a place that looks like nowhere else. Beginning with The Call of the Canyon in 1923, some hundred movies and TV shows have been filmed in and around town. We fell under Sedona’s spell, too, and while debating our No. 1 spot kept returning to it for the same reasons Hollywood does: The area’s telegenic canyons, wind-shaped buttes and dramatic sandstone towers embody the rugged character of the West — and the central place that character holds in our national identity. There’s a timelessness about these ancient rocks that fires the imagination of all who encounter them. Some 11,000 years before film cameras discovered Sedona, American Indians settled the area. Homesteaders, artists and, most recently, New Age spiritualists have followed. Many cultures and agendas abound, but there’s really only one attraction: the sheer, exuberant beauty of the place. People come for inspiration and renewal, tawny cliffs rising from the buff desert floor, wind singing through box canyons, and sunsets that seem to cause the ancient buttes and spires to glow from within. We hear the canyon’s call and cannot resist
Sedona, Ariz.: ‘GMA’ Most Beautiful Place in America
Where else in American can you explore hidden canyons, hike on red rock trails, shop in a recreated Mexican village and then relax in a legendary spa? Only in Sedona, Ariz.
Sedona Makes Fodors “10 Best Small Towns in America
Sedona, AZ: Sedona, Arizona has been named one of the remarkable towns listed by Fodor’s in “10 Best Small Towns in America.” Surrounded by stunning red rock formations and an abundance of activities for people of all ages and interests, it’s no wonder Sedona has received these recent accolades as well:
• 10 Best Cities for a Girlfriend Getaway by Smarter Travel Magazine,
• 10 Great Places to Indulge your Senses by USA Today, and
• Top 10 US Travel Destinations for 2013 by Lonely Planet.
• United States
• Arizona (AZ)
“Most Beautiful Place”
Bisbee not on list.
Jean has a point,
Bisbee has low income housing , small lot zoning, and works hard at being a touristy town.
All things Sedona could learn from.
There’s lies, damned lies, and statistics.
I used to work for the Post Office back when there was talk of 179 “improvements.” I worked out in the village and drove from West Sedona every morning before sunrise. There was NOTHING wrong with 179 as it was. There were very few back-ups – you could pull over anywhere and enjoy the scenery and take photos. You could park and hike. You could pull around and pass a slow-moving vehicle. These things aren’t allowed – due to traffic controls.
The “improvements” also destroyed the Christmas community spirit when they’d go out and decorate trees along the highway. They also had a volunteer group who so hated the round-up sprayed on the median – they’d go out with bright orange vests and pull weeds and pick up trash. These things aren’t allowed – due to traffic controls.
It seems that those with long range vision of having Sedona as a National Monument, also envision having park and ride only traffic on the street. The 5g network is rolling out and Sedona gets a whopping additional 44 cell towers (don’t worry, they can hide them) and self-driving cars seem to be coming as well. This is the goal: the problem-reaction-solution to traffic that cities much larger than Sedona are now looking at. You’ll be driving around using the computer chip in your wrists, and connected to all the cell towers.
Each tower is 300 amps of electricity. Do we have any idea at all where all this electricity is coming from? and if there’s been advances unbeknownst to us, the end user and payer, shouldn’t it be disclosed to the public?
I’d like nothing more than to see the curbs along 179 removed, the traffic circles removed, and signs for Sedona to be placed on the 260 and i17.
And if those investor/developers get access to that 27 acres, they should do it with the bridge everyone wants that would go from Chavez Ranch Road and 179. It would give Tobias access to property and the link between west Sedona and VOC.