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Transportation plan includes widening roads, adding transit
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Transportation plan includes widening roads, adding transit

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Road projects

A map of the new road projects (in blue and green) included in the Regional Transportation Plan. 

The next two decades will bring widening projects to Milton Road, Lone Tree Road, Butler Avenue and Fourth Street, as well as projects to replace the bridges on Fourth Street and extend J.W. Powell Boulevard as part of the Flagstaff Regional Transportation Plan, which was finalized on May 1.

The plan, which will need about $280 million in revenue between 2020 and 2040, was presented to the city council for discussion Tuesday night.

The plan’s funding relies on an extension of the city’s local transportation sales tax, which is scheduled to sunset in 2020, so the council was also tasked with determining the next steps for the tax ahead of the 2018 election.

David Wessel, the manager of the Flagstaff Metropolitan Planning Organization (FMPO), said the bulk of the projects, $195 million, would be funded by the assumed extension of the existing tax.

The “lion’s share” of the funding and responsibility for the projects come from the city, Wessel said, adding that FMPO has jurisdiction over federal funds that are given for transportation improvement, but said those funds are very minor.

The projects, which include a rapid transit or higher frequency transit across the city from the airport, through town, to the mall, and filling gaps in sidewalks and bicycle lanes will “have a modest positive impact on (transportation) mode shift,” Wessel said. According to his presentation, the percentage of people choosing to walk or bike, as well as take public transit would increase by about 0.2 percent each under the 20-year program.

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Last year, the steering committee for the plan received a wish list of 35 projects which totaled more than $1 billion in improvements. Since then the committee prioritized the projects based on safety, congestion relief, providing more travel choices and economic development.

The project ranked the highest priority, the widening of Milton Road between Riordan Road and Phoenix Avenue, would be done in partnership with the Arizona Department of Transportation, Wessel said. The project is estimated to cost about $36.5 million, making it one of the most expensive projects on the list, second only to the rapid transit program. The widening project would be a phased project over the course of the plan’s lifetime, according to the presentation.

“I do question a little bit why we would put 15 percent of the projected funding into Milton,” Councilman Scott Overton said. “We know it’s a challenging road, but to spend $40 million on a road that we know is very challenging, I think it might appease the community members that feel like that road’s not performing, but I’m concerned that it’s never going to be performing.”

Instead, Overton said he would rather see that amount get spent on “projects that make more impact.”

The widening of Lone Tree Road on both the northbound and southbound sides was the next highest ranking project listed in Wessel’s presentation, with the combined projects totaling about $23 million.

Several of the projects on the wish list did not make it into the finalized plan, including an interchange at Lone Tree Road from Interstate 40, an underpass at Switzer Canyon Road at the railroad tracks, bypasses for both Highway 89 and Highway 180 and an extension of Woody Mountain Road.

At the meeting, the council decided to create a commission that will be tasked with the next steps for the transportation plan. City Manager Josh Copley said applications for the commission will be available within the next few days.

City spokeswoman Meg Roederer said the scope of the commission has yet to be determined, but said creating a ballot question, or multiple questions, will be a task the city needs to complete in order to be prepared for the chance to renew the voter-approved tax for the 2018 election.

The reporter can be reached at cvanek@azdailysun.com or 556-2249.

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City Government and Development Reporter

Corina Vanek covers city government, city growth and development for the Arizona Daily Sun.

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