Location/Design Concept Study and Environmental Studies
WICKENBURG BYPASS UPDATE No. 2
February 2000This is the second in a series of informational bulletins designed to update the community on the progress of the US 93 Wickenburg to Santa Maria River Location/ Design Concept Study. The study will determine the optimum location and design concept for a proposed bypass of US 93 around Wickenburg and the widening of 35 miles of US 93 north of Wickenburg. This bulletin also addresses a proposed interim solution that would relieve downtown congestion until the ultimate bypass is completed. Public Identifies Bypass Issues, Concerns
Agency and Public Scoping Meetings were held on June 3, 1999, to obtain public input on issues and concerns to consider in the Location/ Design Concept Study and Environmental Assessment for the proposed highway improvements. The majority of comments concerned social and economic impacts, focusing on protecting private property, residential areas, neighborhoods, recreational areas, and local businesses.
Other important issues and concerns included cost, effect on town character and growth, mining claims, avoidance of school zones, and traffic safety. Environmental issues were also important, especially air quality, noise, visual changes, and wildlife habitat.
After the public presentation, citizens were invited to participate in an open question and answer session. Many questions and comments regarding the proposed interim improvements were voiced. Several people inquired about specific details of the Northeast and Southwest Corridors. Concerns about the source of funding and cost of the bypass and interim improvements were expressed. The study process and other highway projects were also discussed.Economic Study Projects Minor Revenue Losses
An Economic Study examining the effects associated with construction of a bypass around Wickenburg was completed in August 1999. The study used data from roadside interviews to estimate the effect a bypass would have on pass-through businesses. The report projected potential revenue losses resulting from either the Northeast or Southwest bypass corridor.
The study found that, overall, constructing a bypass in either corridor would cause only minor revenue losses and do little harm to the communitys economy as a whole. For example, business income would only be reduced by 3.3% and 4.0% by the Northeast and Southwest Corridors, respectively. The town government could expect a reduction of 4.6% and 5.5% of its tax revenue by each route, respectively.
It is important to note that the study is based on what would happen if a bypass were constructed today. Because the bypass is many years from construction, the community will have time to adapt. By the time a bypass is built, decisions about growth will have been made in anticipation of the bypass; thus, Wickenburg could face even smaller business losses than estimated.Northeast Corridor Eliminated
At the June 3 public meeting, two bypass corridors, the Northeast and Southwest, were presented. Due to strong public response, a "Far West" corridor west of Vulture Peak was later added to the bypass corridor evaluation. The three preliminary corridors were then evaluated for social and environmental impacts as well as design factors.
In addition, aerial photographs were taken and field surveys were conducted to gather data on potential environmental and engineering issues.
The Northeast Corridor was eliminated from further study because of its potential negative socioeconomic consequences. It would affect adjacent neighborhoods by dividing residential areas, increasing noise levels, displacing businesses and homes, as well as degrading the areas visual character. The corridors close proximity to rehabilitation centers, ranches, resorts, the fairgrounds, and an historic ranch would indirectly harm those facilities.
In addition, the Northeast Corridor would cause the loss of more riparian habitat and has more potential to lower water quality than the Southwest or Far West Corridors.
In terms of design factors, the Northeast Corridor passes through very rugged terrain, does not provide for a direct connection to US 60 west of town, and would cost more than the two other corridors due to the large amount of private land required for right-of-way.Bypass to be Located Southwest of Town The initial evaluation showed the Southwest and Far West Corridors had similar impacts. No "fatal flaws" were found that would eliminate either corridor from further study. Thus, these corridors have been combined to create a broad study corridor that will be used in developing specific alignment alternatives for the bypass. Combining the corridors allows more flexibility in developing alignments that would minimize impacts to the area. The bypass route will be located southwest of town on either the near or far side of Vulture Peak.
Numerous bypass alignment alternatives within the broad study corridor are being developed and will be analyzed to identify an "optimum" bypass route. The key issues in determining the bypass location will be effects on recreational areas, visual character, loss of wildlife habitat, and highway user costs. A public meeting is planned for this spring to present the bypass alignment alternatives and the initial results of the comparative evaluation.
Interim Improvements to Relieve Congestion in Near Future
Traffic volumes on Tegner Street and Wickenburg Way are projected to increase by 40% in the next 10 years and by 60% in 15 years. Because a bypass would not be in place for many years, interim improvements will be necessary to relieve congestion in downtown Wickenburg.
A feasibility study to identify, evaluate, and recommend interim improvement alternatives was completed late last year. Thirteen alternatives were evaluated; three will be moved forward for further development and detailed evaluation.
Alternative 10 is a low-cost solution that could be implemented in the very near future. It would serve to relieve traffic congestion until either Alternative 7 or 13 is planned and constructed. A Project Assessment defining project scope, costs, and implementation issues will be prepared early this year.
A Design Concept Study is being initiated to determine and evaluate the best location and design concept for Alternatives 7 and 13, or variations thereof. A Design Concept Report and an Environmental Assessment will be prepared to document the study findings and conclusions. During the study, information will be presented at a public meeting to obtain input. Later, a public hearing will be held to present the study recommendations.
What Happened to the Public Meeting Scheduled for Fall 1999?
As presented in the June 3 meeting, a public meeting was originally scheduled to occur last fall. Due to issues and agency conflicts that arose during the Southwest and Far West Corridor evaluations, it was decided that a public meeting would be premature at that time. The meeting has been postponed until later this spring to allow time for specific bypass alignments to be developed within the combined west corridor.
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