Highway Affordability Not An Issue
Sedona, AZ (October 16, 2011) – The Voice of Choice of 89a demonstrated its community support Friday afternoon, October 14, 2011, with a public display. The group, approximately 75 people strong, all in bright yellow tee shirts, lined up along State Route 89a (SR 89a) between Dry Creek Road and Airport Road. The purpose was to mark the locations of the 108 35′ tall street lights that Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is proposing along SR 89a. A referendum about highway ownership has been scheduled for special election on November 8, 2011.
The referendum came as a result of the Sedona City Council’s vote to accept ADOT’s offer of ownership on February 22, 2011. A group calling itself Let The People Vote on 89a (LTPV) garnered enough signatures to put the council’s vote before the people of Sedona.
At issue is a decision regarding State Route 89a in West Sedona. ADOT gave the city a choice last year: assume ownership (called a Take Back) of the road between roughly at Y and the high school plus a $10.6 million dollar package for future improvements. The alternate option will allow ADOT to proceed with its plan to install 108 35′ tall lights and continue its ownership of the road. Included in the plan way is to install a new stoplight at Andante Drive on 89a and resurfacing the entire length of the road. Whether the city takes back the highway or ADOT keeps the highway, the new stoplight at Andante Drive will be installed and resurfacing the entire length happen in Spring of 2012.
The issue has been hotly debated for months, with the Voice of Choice for 89a speaking for the take back the ownership and the funds ADOT offered. LTPV, the group responsible for the referendum, speaks for those wanting to let ADOT continue to own 89a and install the lights.
The Voice of Choice for 89a group states that the city can afford the highway and has a plan and facts to back up their claims. City manager Tim Ernster has stated publicly that the take back is doable. LTPV say there is no plan or funds for the future of the highway, however Sedona Mayor Rob Adams recently reversed his position and now says no, we can’t afford the take back. “It was gratifying, even tho we saw a few middle fingers pointed at us. Our research shows the majority favors no lights.” said Karen Keller, a member of Voice of Choice for 89a
The vote will have long term implications for the community. “Roads define communities”, says Mike Schoeder, co-chair of Voice of Choice for 89a. “What we have here is the old power guard wanting to make Sedona like other big cities with bright boulevard lighting 24/7, and the opposing side who want to retain the small town character and continue to be more in harmony with why they came to Sedona.”LTPV Vice Chair Serge Wright states: ” …the city is already operating on a bare bones budget and there is currently $25 million in unfunded priority projects.”
What hangs in the balance and unsaid is the fact that ADOT , in its 5 year plan, intends to Turn Back all Arizona State Highways to the communities in which they pass. ADOT receives 90% of its transportation funding from the Federal Highways Administration and as federal dollars disappear, the maintenance costs are being shifted to the states. ADOT simply cannot continue to build new highways and maintain all the existing roads and highways. In that 5 year plan, what is shown are only major highways like I-10, I-40 and Highway 17 being owned and maintained by ADOT. It appears Sedona will own SR 89a sooner or later. Currently, $10.6 million is offered to Sedona for future maintenance. Those funds could evaporate by the time Sedona assumes ownership.
The by-product of this shift in funding is that communities will determine the look and feel of the highways and roads that run through their communities. Along with the Highways and Roads, local control will be given to the communities. Roads define communities. The question of how do you want your community to be defined is in front of Sedona voters November 8.