COTTONWOOD -- Tuesday night, the Cottonwood Council agreed to join Camp Verde to campaign and lobby the State Transportation Board for money to complete the four-lane widening of State Route 260 from Thousand Trails to Camp Verde.
Wednesday afternoon, meeting at the Cottonwood Recreation Center, representatives of Camp Verde, Cottonwood, Clarkdale, Jerome and Yavapai County gathered to map agreed-on strategy to move the project forward in the state five-year plan.
Cottonwood will match Camp Verde contributions to pay for a consultant and lobbyist. Former Transportation Board member Felipe Zubia completed a six-year term on the state board in 2011. He is now as principal in the consulting firm ReSeed Advisors LLC.
Camp Verde Manager Russ Martin and Steve Ayers, Economic Development director, are leading the charge for Camp Verde. Ayers, reportedly, is in touch with property owners in the area. They believe that most people are now on board to get the job done. In addition, County Supervisor Tom Thurman has urged everyone not to fight over the proposed improvements this time.
Funds are scarce at ADOT these days and the board has been given three scenarios to spend the new five-year plan including: 1) Preservation: keeping existing roadways in acceptable condition; 2) Mainly Construction: building new priority roads or 3) Combination of pavement preservation and construction.
Prescott State Transportation District Engineer Alvin Stump has estimated the cost to complete the Camp Verde section of SR 260 could be $40 million. During a teleconference meeting, Zubia told the community representatives Wednesday the five-year plan already includes $7 million for the project, including design and a little construction money. On a positive note, that $7 million for the 260 section is included in all three scenarios the state is considering, one of the few projects where that is true.
Zubia suggests that each municipality and other organizations including the Chambers of Commerce, Verde Valley Regional Economic Organization and others send ADOT a resolution supporting the measures. He urged people comment personally before the State Board.
Comments may also be filed online on the state's web for the five-year plan at www.azdot.gov/mpd/priority_programming/Five_Year_Programs.asp
The consultant urged the community representatives to attend the third and final public hearing on the five-year plan in Flagstaff May 10. The meeting will be at the Flagstaff City Council chambers beginning at 9 a.m.
As part of the strategy, Zubia urged people to tell ADOT at the public meeting or to send a comment online to support Scenario 2, favoring construction, to permit the board to fully fund the SR 260 project. He said there are some projects proposed in that scenario which also favor interstate projects that should properly be considered urban and should fall under the special sales tax percent that both Maricopa and Pima counties assess. Those projects should not take away from rural road funding.
Zubia urged people's comments to stay on message and offered three talking points: safety, mobility and economic development as areas the board likes to hear.
Camp Verde has been working for a year to restore funding to complete the four-lane widening project from where the formal work ended at Thousand Trails to the Interstate.
The two communities will make an initial payment of $5,000 plus an additional bonus of $10,000 if the effort is successful. Other Verde Valley communities have not yet indicated they will help support the effort.
When SR 260 was originally widened, a number of Camp Verde representatives fought the ADOT plan to limit private property access no greater than 1-mile apart, which could be served by a "frontage road." When the Camp Verde players refused to budge on the plan, Supervisor Chip Davis suggested the county loan the construction money to push forward construction of the Western-Thousand Trails segment for which there was agreement. The section was four-laned and widened, and ADOT refunded the county money when the state five-year construction plan reached that project.
Since then, the state has funded projects to provide safety improvements, such as passing lanes, on the state highway, but, this is the first time money for the widening work has been included.