Flagstaff City Council and mayoral candidates have been given the chance to answer a weekly question in no more than 150 words. This week’s question: How do you feel about traffic and snowplay issues?
Increasing public transit and redirecting some snowplay to Fort Tuthill are two strategies to address the winter traffic issue. Over recent years, we’ve seen horrendous traffic north of town on Fort Valley Rd. We’ve also seen other snowplay-related issues like broken plastic sleds left in the woods. I am supportive of the Snow Park at Fort Tuthill as a solution to winter traffic and trash. Tourists can enjoy the snow while not contributing to the Ft Valley gridlock. I will advocate for a Park and Ride shuttle to transport people to high-use areas, decreasing individual vehicles on the roads during the winter season. I also support the transportation Props 419 & 421. Prop 419 will continue funding NAIPTA to improve our roads while connecting JW Powell. Prop 421 will increase NAIPTA bus routes and frequency. This will allow more public transit use while removing cars from the road.
The biggest problem Flagstaff faces in dealing with traffic is that the state has jurisdiction over the most congested roads—Milton, 180, Route 66. To deal with the most congested areas, we need either new roads or be able to work with ADOT and lobby for additional funds for our town.
One thing other cities across the country have been doing is to put sensors for street lights on the roads rather than on top of the lights. This allows for a dynamic traffic reading so we don’t have to fully stop at the light before it recognizes a vehicle is there. This requires an artificial intelligence system to run properly, but is far more cost effective than expanding road lanes or creating new roads. I would like to work with ADOT to try and create this system for Flagstaff.
Flagstaff is Arizona’s winter wonderland, welcoming thousands of visitors for snowplay and winter recreation. More vehicles, narrow roads due to snow, and lack of driving skills in winter conditions cause traffic mayhem.
Comprehensively addressing winter traffic requires working with Coconino County, DPS, ADOT, USFS, Arizona Snowbowl, Nordic Center and snowplay areas. Planning and management of snowplay areas in terms of accessibility, ingress and egress traffic, safety, parking, and waste removal is paramount.
I offer these solutions:
• Increase awareness of residents and visitors about snowplay areas. Widely distribute the City’s Winter Recreation Map. Engage hotels, local restaurants and shops.
• Direct residents and visitors to safe snowplay areas.
• Encourage more shuttle services to Snowbowl and possibly snowplay areas.
• Create more snowplay opportunities within city parks. Involve local nonprofits and youth organizations. Fort Tuthill is a great example as it offers multiple winter activities.
• Develop alternative routes from I-40/I-17 to North Fort Valley.
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There is no doubt that winter tourism has a positive effect on our economy. Economic benefit alone must not be allowed to destroy quality of life and community character for our citizens. There are no clear or simple solutions for winter traffic congestion. From more traditional ideas such as coordinating signal timing and assigning alternate routes, to experimenting with innovative ways to move vehicles more efficiently through town, the issue of winter recreation traffic has become more critical.
The only economical and practical way to remove snowplay cars from our roads is to offer bus service to and from snow recreation areas. A joint partnership between city and county governments is the first step. Provide parking at Fort Tuthill and have city buses transport winter visitors through town to popular snowplay areas. Building new roads is very costly and this idea of buses would help winter traffic congestion.
So we have an infrastructure for a town of about 45,000 residents vs. a permanent population of around 70,000 folks, plus our cherished visitors. We have a lot of work ahead of us to solve these street and infrastructure challenges.
I am in favor Prop 419 which over time will address congestion on West Route 66 and Butler, connect other sections of our City via roads/bike paths and provide the necessary safety improvements to existing roads.
The state, city, county and other partners are addressing major issues with Milton Rd and the 180 Corridor. I will keep you informed as to the various proposals by the experts and work with our Street Department to communicate solutions to the community.
We are making progress, for example the 4th Street overpass and the addition of the right turning lane on Milton into the Safeway Center.
It's imperative that Flagstaff tackle congestion. Before development projects are approved, we must better scrutinize traffic impact studies, and insist that all developers plan for and implement multimodal transportation solutions.
The city must collaborate with NAU to address its role in exacerbating congestion. NAU can help by denying parking passes to first-year students, a solution that’s worked in college towns throughout the country. Student fees can provide greater access to public transit, which in turn improves the quality of public transit for the whole city.
Wider roads and bypasses risk simply inviting greater growth and more traffic. The city deserves credit for progress with NAIPTA and the FUTS, but council can demand further solutions to make transit alternatives more robust and more desirable. More trails, tunnels, bridges, and bike lanes (away from busy streets) are essential, as are more bus routes with a higher frequency of service, over longer hours.
Flagstaff’s transportation issues are not solely related to snowplay. The main issue is that the majority of the main roads we use daily are not city roads.
Milton, Route 66, Hwy 180/Fort Valley, 89A are all owned, managed, and maintained by the State of Arizona. The best way to address the traffic issues in Flagstaff is to design and build the appropriate multimodal system for our city. I encourage everyone to vote yes on the three Transportation Sales Tax Questions appearing on the November ballot.
Prop 419 to be used to help construct the JW Powell to 4th Street connection (pulling cars off of Milton), Prop 420 will be used for the Lone Tree Overpass from Butler Avenue to Route 66, providing another North/South Access Road and Prop 421 will allow for increased bus service. Flagstaff's traffic issues are a question that appropriate investments can begin to address.