Sedona AZ (May 24, 2019) – The #1 topic of conversation and frustration in Sedona is traffic and how the City Council is going to make it better. Two of the questions I get the most on this topic are: Why does it take so long to start construction, and are you going to address the pedestrians in front of Tlaquepaque? I’m happy to answer both questions.
Let’s start with why construction planning takes so long, and why that’s a good thing. One major reason for the length of the process is that we take time to involve you, our residents, in the discussion to define the problem and figure out the solution. And we give you lots of opportunities to provide that input. It takes time to talk, plan, revise and reach out to hear your opinion every step of the way. Then, once we have a reasonable consensus on what to do, it takes time – a lot of it – to conduct the specialized environmental and engineering studies required by state and federal law, to investigate potential impacts on businesses and neighborhoods, and to coordinate with the other state and private entities involved in the project area, study the various options to identify the best and lowest-cost alternatives, and, finally, when construction does begin, to comply with state and federal regulations designed to protect public safety, environmental safety, private property rights, and buried utilities, among other things.
If you’ve ever done a home remodeling project, you’ve experienced all the choices, decisions and coordination involved. Multiply that by one thousand. Does it take a long time? Yes, but it’s not something we can, or should undertake casually, or in a hurry.
On to question number two: how to get those Tlaquepaque pedestrians across the street without continually slowing traffic on SR179. I’m happy to tell you we are down to a final list of four possible solutions, one of which holds potential benefits in addition to traffic mitigation.
The four solutions are (1) a bridge over 179, (2) a tunnel under 179, (3) adding pedestrian and traffic signals to the existing crosswalk, and (4) an underpass alongside Oak Creek at the north tip of the Schnebly Hill roundabout.
The first two options present some construction challenges and could be costly. In order to meet federal requirements, any bridge or tunnel must be accessible to people who use wheelchairs or have other mobility assistance needs. For the bridge or tunnel, that would mean construction of two 10-foot, switch-backed ramps alongside 179 on each side, or an elevator. And tunneling can be expensive. The third option, signals at the crosswalk, would help manage traffic flow but still require traffic to periodically stop, and might not be the most attractive option.
Council has not yet heard detailed analysis of each option, nor details on cost, but Option 4, the creekside underpass, has certainly raised my interest. Ramps for accessibility would still be required, but they could be built on the slope that leads to the creekbed near the Schnebly Hill roundabout and would not appreciably alter the attractive street-facing facade of Tlaquepaque. The most exciting part of this option, for me, is that it could represent a first significant step toward two major amenities that Sedona residents have told us for years they would like to have: public access to Oak Creek and a walking and/or bike-riding path on which to traverse our beautiful city away from busy State Route 89A. The city recently completed a portion of such a shared-use path through Sunset Park. Over time, the goal is to create and link these bits and pieces of pathways throughout Sedona and this underpass at SR179 could become one of those pieces.
No decision has been made yet. The city council expects to discuss Tlaquepaque again at a meeting in June or July.
In closing, be assured that I take the need for traffic solutions just as seriously as you do, and I and my colleagues on the Sedona City Council spend a good portion of our time addressing the questions and making decisions – many of them not easy – that are necessary to move forward with implementation of our Sedona in Motion transportation projects. Construction begins in Uptown in just a few short weeks, and the council is considering an ambitious transit implementation plan that was very well received at a public open house in April.
I hope you’ve already signed up for Sedona in Motion email updates at sedonaaz.gov/simnews. Read about all the projects – and how they are progressing – at sedonaaz.gov/sim. If you live in the Uptown area, or drive through it regularly, I encourage you to sign up for text message updates on the Uptown construction project by texting the word SIMUPTOWN to 888777.
The opinions expressed above are mine alone and do not necessarily represent the views of the Sedona City Council or any other organization.