The Arizona Department of Transportation invited stakeholders — business owners along Highway 69 between Navajo Drive and Fain Road — to meetings on April 11 and 13, but about 40 residents from Orchard Ranch showed up at the latter meeting hoping to learn more and to express their opinions on ADOT’s plan to place a 1.5-mile raised center median in front the entrance to the mobile home/RV park.
Many left when they learned this wasn’t a public hearing, which will come at a later date, where they could go on the record with their opposition. Some stuck around to ask questions and hear from ADOT staff.
Both meetings took place in the Prescott Valley Public Library auditorium, and about 10 business owners came on Wednesday, and five on Friday, said Deborrah Miller, ADOT community relations project manager.
Deanna Reidhead, co-owner with her husband, Mike, of D&M Glass, stopped in on Friday to hear about the project. While she realizes something needs to be done, Reidhead is not happy about the plans.
“I watch people do stupid things when they pull out into the intersection. Something needs to be done,” Reidhead said. “I don’t agree with the lights. It’s silly to put one in at Mendocino and not at Truwood.”
To get to her business from Prescott Valley, Reidhead would need either to turn early at Navajo and take a back road, or pass Truwood and make a U-turn at Mendocino to come back. A minor inconvenience, she said. Mostly, she feels this project is a “done deal” and there is not much she or any other business owner can do about it.
Orchard Ranch Resort residents acknowledge that cars leaving their 55-plus community pull onto Highway 69 into 65-mph traffic. Vehicles heading east won’t be able to make a left turn into the property. Instead, they would have two options: drive another half-mile to Fain Road and make a U-turn, or turn left at Fain Road, continue to Sarah Jane Lane, and turn left using the back entrance into the park.
This entrance, however, is locked at dusk. In addition, Orchard Ranch Resort is expanding north on 37 acres and building 210 new sites, with a corresponding increase in traffic at the back entrance.
The intersection at Fain Road and Highway 69 won’t accommodate a 40-foot motor home, said Orchard Ranch resident Matt Hoddy. Turning in and circling the Maverick Station to make a left turn onto Highway 69 also is not an option, he said, for motor homes, fifth-wheels, tractor trailers, or fire engines.
Navy veteran and Orchard Ranch resident Bert Grey, 97, drives in and out of the property. He hasn’t had a traffic ticket in 50 years, he said, alluding to his driving skills. He calls ADOT’s plans “idiotic.”
“There’s more traffic in and out in an hour than goes into other properties along the highway in a week,” Grey said. Ambulances and firetrucks are at Orchard Ranch three or four times a week, he added.
Miller confirmed that fire engines would be able to drive over the 6-inch median and turn left into Orchard Ranch, although there is no left-turn lane and oncoming traffic would need to stop for the fire trucks to cross the highway.
Brad Fain, CEO of Fain Signature Group, attended the Wednesday meeting. His company owns developable property on both sides of Highway 69, so he is interested in what ADOT is proposing.
“At this point we are gathering information and dialoguing with ADOT as to what they want to accomplish from a safety perspective and what we want to accomplish from a development perspective,” Fain said.
Prescott Valley Public Works Director Norm Davis is in favor of increasing safety along this stretch of Highway 69.
“I’ve got to listen to the law enforcement people and crash reports, and that’s what ADOT has to react to or they would be remiss in doing their job,” Davis said. “We need to look at safety. There’s a balance between access, mobility and safety. When there’s change, we like to make sure we weigh it out. Good engineering has some flexibility with local desire and competing interests.”
Crash information from ADOT indicates 118 incidents took place along this stretch of Highway 69 from 2013 to 2017, with four fatalities.
Prescott Valley Mayor Harvey Skoog sent a letter two years ago to ADOT on behalf of the town, expressing his support. He said the town received positive public feedback on safety and the landscaping on a similar median on Highway 69 at the Crossroads development.
“State Route 69 on the east side of Prescott Valley is the gateway into our town, therefore the addition of a landscaped median would be an important safety benefit as well as an attractive entrance to our community,” Skoog wrote in his Feb. 10, 2016, letter.
The project’s anticipated start date is in 2019, the ADOT project website indicates.
“It’s a lengthy public process for input. Not everyone will be happy,” Davis said.