US 93: Wickenburg to Santa Maria River

Location/Design Concept Study and Environmental Studies

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Scoping Report, September 1999

INTRODUCTION

THE SCOPING PROCESS

Agency Scoping
Agency Issues and Concerns
Public Scoping
Summary of Public Issues and Concerns
Steering Committee
ADOT Technical Staff

Appendices

  1.     Agency Scoping Meeting minutes
  2.     Public Meeting minutes
  3.     Public Comment Summary
  4.     Steering Committee Issues, Concerns, and Objectives
  5.     ADOT Technical Staff Meeting minutes

 

INTRODUCTION

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) has initiated a Location/Design Concept Study to determine the optimum location and design concept for improving US 93 from approximately Milepost (MP) 120 on US 60, just south of Wickenburg, to MP 161 on US 93, at the Santa Maria River. The study will address a bypass around downtown Wickenburg, improvements to US 93 north of Wickenburg, and improvements at traffic interchanges with State Route (SR) 71, US 89, US 60, and possibly SR 74. This report describes the scoping efforts undertaken in initiating the US 93, Wickenburg – Santa Maria River Location/Design Concept Study.

US 93 is a primary highway route that links the metropolitan Phoenix area to northwest Arizona and beyond. The highway carries local, tourist, commercial, and through-traffic. Traffic volumes along the route have continually increased over the years, and, due to its designation as a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) route, traffic volumes can be expected to increase more rapidly in the near future, particularly for long-haul truck traffic. The increasing traffic volumes have intensified the need to improve the existing two-lane facility.

 

THE SCOPING PROCESS

The purpose of the scoping process is to identify potential issues, concerns, and opportunities (ICOs) that should be considered in the Location/Design Concept Study and Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposed highway improvements. ICO information was obtained from area residents, business owners, and government agency representatives through public and agency scoping meetings. Additionally, a Steering Committee, comprised of federal, state, and local agencies as well as Wickenburg residents, was formed to act as a sounding board between the public and the Study Team. ICOs specific to the committee were obtained during initial committee meetings. ADOT’s technical staff also provided input to the study.

 Agency Scoping

An agency scoping meeting was held on June 3, 1999, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Wickenburg Council Chambers, 155 North Tegner Street, Wickenburg, Arizona. Notice of the meeting was sent to representatives of federal, state, and local agencies and other organizations. The list of invited agency representatives, the meeting handout, and the meeting minutes are included in Appendix I.

The meeting was attended by representatives of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), ADOT, Arizona State Land Department, Town of Wickenburg, Yavapai County, Federal Highway Administration (FWHA), Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce, and Sverdrup Civil, Inc. The meeting was opened with a discussion of the study corridor, the purpose of the study, the results from the Phase 1 Corridor Location Study, and the purpose of the agency scoping meeting. After reviewing the meeting handout, the floor was opened to the agency representatives to express their concerns regarding the Location/Design Concept Study and EA for the proposed highway improvements.

 Agency Issues and Concerns

At the meeting, the agency representatives voiced the following issues and concerns regarding the roadway design, social and economic impacts, and environmental impacts.

Design

  • Incorporate design measures to preserve the visual character of the scenic highway (corten weathered steel guardrail, stained concrete structures, slope treatment, rock staining, rock sculpting, etc.).
  • Need to coordinate with Western Area Power Administration regarding potential conflicts with power lines that cross the current alignment near the Santa Maria River.
  • Concern was expressed regarding potential material source sites and staging areas on BLM land. A BLM/FHWA programmatic EA is under development regarding federal mineral rights on Kingman BLM land; eventually this will be a statewide agreement.
  • Access to public lands must be maintained. Both the BLM and State Land representatives expressed concern that ADOT’s goal for access control might compromise recreational access.
  • Possible utility conflicts may occur along Constellation Road if the northeast bypass route is selected.
  • Access control should be addressed early in the process.
  • Limit the number of left and right turns from the roadway through access control to increase safety and operational efficiency.
  • A possible interchange between Vulture Mine Road and the western bypass corridor should not be dismissed yet. The State Land Department intends to partake in this discussion and is concerned that people think the issue has already been settled.
  • Concerns were expressed about present traffic congestion and its impact on pedestrian and motorist safety.
  • Truck traffic usage of the proposed highway – bypass route should not be so long that truck traffic continues to travel through downtown Wickenburg.
  • Include appropriate signage to direct bypass traffic to downtown businesses to help reduce negative economic impacts.
  • An interim solution to downtown Wickenburg’s traffic problems should be identified and evaluated in the corridor/bypass study.

Social and Economic Impacts

  • Potential impacts of the southwest bypass on the planned Vulture Peak Special Recreation Area, located near Vulture Peak west of the existing US 60/SR 74 intersection and south of US 60. Planning for this has progressed for four years and should be finalized this year. Coordination with the BLM is needed to explore the possibility of providing a transportation corridor in the plan for the Vulture Peak Special Recreation Area to avoid Section 4(f) problems.
  • Disruption of hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails should be avoided if possible. If not, the highway concept study needs to identify measures to maintain recreational access (e.g., to Vulture Peak).
  • Concern was expressed regarding the potential impacts of the proposed northeast bypass on the planned Red Top Mountain Trail.
  • Historic mines are found on both sides of US 93 around Wickenburg and should be avoided.
  • Prehistoric sites are located on the east side of US 93. There is Hopi interest in these sites. This will require early involvement and coordination with tribes on TCP issues.
  • Physical improvements on State Land (e.g. corrals, barns, etc.) will require compensation if they are impacted by the highway improvements.
  • BLM land parcels south of the Santa Maria River are designated for retention rather than disposal.
  • Two grazing allotments are present on the BLM land near the Santa Maria River. The dividing line between the two allotments (the Santa Maria and the DG Ranch) is located at the division of Township 11N and 12N along the existing alignment.
  • Subsurface federal mining rights on State Land need to be considered.
  • Consistency with general land use plans should be considered along the bypass.
  • Assistance for grazing lessees, such as providing fencing during construction, should be considered.
  • The Study Team should consider the potential sale and development of State Land at potential interchanges with US 60 or Vulture Mine Road, land use and economic impact assessments; avoid development of new communities at bypass interchanges. Need to work with State Lands on potential controls for future development along the highway.
  • More information is needed on the location of mining claims.
  • Pre-1955 mining claims have more stringent rights than post-1955.
  • Wickenburg is currently preparing an EA for the expansion of their airport. The highway study will need to address avoidance of airport runway protection zones.
  • Avoid returning the existing roadway or interim improvements to Town maintenance.
  • Retain the compact character of the Wickenburg community.
  • Minimize the impact of the northeast bypass on private property and residential areas.
  • Concerned about impacts on BLM recreational lands and the potential involvement of Section 4(f) considerations in the study.
  • Maintain access to grazing allotments on State Lands.
  • Maintain the quality of life of Wickenburg citizens (i.e., protect health, safety, and welfare) and preserve the historic character of downtown Wickenburg.
  • Protect sales and property tax revenues and utility revenues for the town of Wickenburg.
  • Maintain consistency with long-term economic and environmental goals and needs of Wickenburg.
  • Avoid negative impacts on Wickenburg’s infrastructure.
  • Minimize potential business failure, loss of jobs, and decreased property values.
  • Minimize impacts on private property and recreation areas.
  • Keep cost of proposed highway in a reasonable range.
  • Maintain zoning control over future land development by placing the bypass within Town limits.

Environmental Impacts

  • Minimize visual impacts of the southwest bypass on Vulture Peak trail.
  • Minimize potential impacts on Class II Sonoran Desert Tortoise habitat located along the southwest bypass corridor that would require mitigation. The mitigation would include compensation for the displaced land.
  • Protect Southwestern Willow Flycatcher habitat in the Hassayampa River Preserve.
  • Avoid cactus ferruginous pygmy owl habitat if present.
  • Riparian habitat along the Hassayampa River and major washes in the study corridor should be avoided.
  • Visual impacts on designated scenic highway. The roadway should blend into the surrounding areas.
  • Wildlife crossing locations need to be identified and accommodated in developing design alternatives. This will require coordination with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
  • Bat surveys at existing structures on BLM land will be required to detect roosting areas.
  • Off-bridge mitigation is preferred for replacing bat roosting areas instead of placing bat abodes on structures, which creates maintenance problems.
  • Must consider plant salvaging.
  • Minimize air quality impacts and noise pollution.
  • Minimize impacts on the desert and wildlife habitat.

 Public Scoping

A Public Scoping Meeting was held on June 3, 1999, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Wickenburg Community Center, 160 North Valentine, Wickenburg, Arizona. The purpose of the meeting was to provide information about the study process to the general public and to provide an opportunity to gather public input on ICOs for the proposed highway improvements. The public meeting notice, handout, and minutes are provided in Appendix II.

Notice of the meeting was provided in the Wickenburg Sun. The meeting notice included a brief description of the study corridor and the purpose of the Location/Design Concept Study. It also listed persons to contact for more information or to send comments on the study. In addition, letters announcing the meeting were sent to interested parties who had previously expressed a desire to receive information on the study.

Study Team members were available before and after the meeting to informally discuss the project. Three exhibits were utilized to facilitate discussion: a map of the entire study corridor with an enlargement of the possible bypass corridors around downtown Wickenburg, a flow chart depicting the study process, and a diagram of the possible typical sections for the proposed improvements.

One hundred seventy-two people attended the meeting. The meeting began with an introduction of the Study Team, followed by descriptions of the proposed project and the study process. The results of the Phase I corridor location (bypass) study were discussed using a PowerPoint presentation that listed the evaluation criteria, mapped the features to be avoided, and overlaid on the map the different corridors that had been evaluated. This process showed clearly why many suggested corridor locations were eliminated from further study and why the two proposed corridors were most suitable for the bypass. A computer-generated 3-D simulation was also used to show the proposed corridors superimposed on the local topography. After the presentation, an open question-and-answer session was held.

 Summary of Public Issues and Concerns

Sixty-one people submitted comments either by returning the comment form attached to the meeting handout or by sending a letter. The comment form provided at the public meeting requested comments on the following: (1) the critical issues that should be considered in comparing the two bypass corridors, (2) the issues that need to be addressed on US 93 north of Wickenburg, and (3) any other comments on the study. Comments received in letters were tabulated under the three categories to achieve consistent accounting of comments. A detailed list of comments is provided in Appendix III.

Design (37 comments)

  • Use the existing alignment for new 4-lane divided roadway north of Wickenburg (13 comments).
  • Maintain access to local roads (10 comments). Comments listed concerns about connector roads between the bypass and US 60, changes to Constellation Road, frontage roads, and access to SR 74 and SR 89.
  • Improve roadway safety and traffic flow (7 comments).
  • Bypass location suggestions (4 comments). One person suggested that the bypass should start past the McDonald’s, follow the river for several miles, then return to US 93. Another person suggested the bypass should start at SR 303, pass by the White Tank Mountains, stay west of Wickenburg, then join US 93 north of town. Another person proposed using Gates Road, an existing unpaved road, for a northeast bypass. Another suggested the bypass should be located farther away from town and tie US 93 into I-10.
  • Install turn lanes to improve safety at Rincon Road (2 comments).
  • Maintain convenience of roadway (1 comment).

Social And Economic Impacts (92 comments total)

  • Minimize impacts on private property (18 comments). Six of the comments stated that a bypass corridor southwest of town was preferable because it would have less private property impacts.
  • Avoid residential areas/neighborhoods (15 comments). Five people stated that the bypass should be located well away from developed areas.
  • Protect existing recreational areas (13 comments). Three people listed horse trails as a specific concern.
  • Cost of building the roadway (13 comments). Eight comments cited factors that would affect the cost of the bypass, such as ruggedness of terrain, number of required bridges, passing through public land, and building connector roads.
  • Avoid negative impacts on businesses (12 comments). Six comments reflected concerns about impacts on tourism and Wickenburg’s major employers. Five comments speculated on the possible effects of a bypass on downtown businesses.
  • Effects on Town planning and growth (9 comments). Four comments expressed concern that the bypass would lead to undesirable development or change the character of Wickenburg. Three people were concerned that the Town would not be able to expand west if the southwest bypass were built.
  • Mining claims (6 comments). Four comments stipulated that mining claims should be a less important factor than impacts on people.
  • Protect school zones (5 comments). All of these comments expressed the concern that schools need to be protected from the noise and traffic of the southwest corridor.
  • Protect cultural resources (1 comment). Concerned about the impact of a southwest bypass on historic ranches.

Environmental Impacts (52 comments total)

  • Impacts on air quality (16 comments). Seven respondents noted concerns that the Southwest bypass would degrade air quality in the Wickenburg area due to the prevailing wind direction and local basin topography.
  • Minimize visual impacts (12 comments). Seven people were concerned about impacts of the Southwest bypass on the local desert scenery; of these, five specifically mentioned the Vulture Peak area.
  • Avoid wildlife and habitat impacts (11 comments). These comments focused on minimizing the amount of desert and riparian habitat that would be destroyed.
  • Minimize noise impacts (10 comments). Concerns focused on highway noise in residential areas.
  • Preserve local water quality (2 comments).
  • Avoid floodplain encroachment (1 comment).

Interim Improvements (29 Comments)

  • Interim improvement suggestions (7 comments). Four people supported eliminating downtown parking to provide 2 lanes for traffic through town. One suggested that traffic be diverted to Vulture Mine Road between US 60 and US 93. Another suggestion was to provide 3 lanes for northbound traffic on Tegner Street. Another suggestion was for the bypass to turn north at the Stolz gas station, cross the park, and rejoin US 93 near the Woodies Chevron Station.
  • The interim improvements are a waste of time and money (7 comments).
  • Build the interim improvements as soon as possible (4 comments).
  • Concerned the interim improvements will become the permanent bypass (4 comments).
  • Design issues (3 comments). One person stated that the interim improvements should become part of the permanent bypass. Another commented that the interim improvements should consist of a divided 4-lane highway. Another comment stated that no bridges should be built for the interim improvements.
  • The interim improvement alternatives are unacceptable due to property impacts and decreased pedestrian safety (1 comment).
  • Concerned that the interim improvement study skirts the legal requirements for the permanent bypass (1 comment).
  • Study traffic control measures rather than interim improvements (1 comment).
  • Truckers will use the shortest route instead of the interim bypass (1 comment).

 Steering Committee

The primary purpose of the Steering Committee is to evaluate the progress of the study, act as a sounding board, and assist in the exchange of information between the public and the Study Team. Committee members represent the governmental agencies and citizen groups that are interested in or could be affected by the US 93 realignment and reconstruction.

The first meeting of the US 93, Wickenburg to Santa Maria River Corridor Design Study Steering Committee was held at the Wickenburg Town Council Chamber on March 1, 1999, from 1:00-4:00 p.m. The purpose of the meeting was to complete the Partnering Agreement and Charter that was begun at a workshop held on February 17th. All members were asked to provide a statement of their organization's objectives and key issues/concerns. The comments provided by the Steering Committee Members are summarized below. Individual comments are available in Appendix IV.

Design

  • Provide easy access to Wickenburg.
  • Minimize highway turn-back to the Town of Wickenburg.

Social and Economic Impacts

  • Protect recreational resources.
  • Retain the quality of life in the Wickenburg area.
  • Preserve rural historic values.
  • Preserve pedestrian and bicyclist safety.
  • Avoid adverse effects on Town infrastructure and any potential loss of utility revenues.
  • Optimize the Town’s ability to manage land use and zoning.
  • Promote Wickenburg as a tourist destination.
  • Minimize potential business failures, lost jobs, and revenue reduction.
  • Investigate opportunities to support local businesses.
  • Support the socioeconomic goals of the community.
  • Avoid residential displacements and loss or reduction in value of residential property.
  • Keep project costs reasonable.

Environmental Impacts

  • Minimize noise impact.
  • Avoid adverse impacts on Hassayampa River and desert areas. Develop appropriate mitigation.
  • Minimize negative impacts on air quality.

 ADOT Technical Staff

The initial meeting of the ADOT technical staff took place in ADOT’s Arizona Room on July 14, 1999, at 1:00 p.m. The committee reviewed the project, the study limits, the study process, the results of the Phase 1 portion of the study, and the Interim Improvement Feasibility Study. Following the presentation, the group discussed the widening of US 93 north of Wickenburg, mining claims, materials sources, interim improvements, and funding availability. The issues and concerns raised in the meeting are detailed below. The meeting minutes are provided in Appendix V.

Design

  • The widening of US 93 north of Wickenburg would likely occur west of the existing roadway because there is adequate right-of-way.
  • There is a possibility of relocating US 93 outside lands managed by the BLM Kingman Field Office.
  • ADOT does not usually designate material sources for contractors. ADOT has had a difficult time finding available sources along the US 93 corridor.
  • The westbound (original) Hassayampa River Bridge is listed as a possible replacement as it is functionally obsolete, but the replacement is contingent on funding availability.
  • More railroad crossings are associated with the southwest bypass corridor than with the interim solution alternatives or the northeast bypass corridor.

Social and Economic Impacts

  • Project costs could increase significantly if ADOT has to acquire active mining claims. Most of the claims in the Wickenburg area are active and concern gold, gypsum, or granite mining. ADOT prefers to avoid mining claim acquisitions due to the cost and administrative difficulties.
  • The difference between mining claims predating 1955 versus those filed after 1955 is that owners of the pre-1955 claims own the land and the mineral rights whereas the others only have mineral rights.
  • Mining claims on BLM land are authorized by permit and can be terminated by the BLM if the right-of-way is needed.
  • Potential Section 4(f) involvement could occur with the southwest or BOOT corridors due to BLM’s proposed recreation area designation on the land south and west of US 60.
  • Interim Alternative 4 would require displacing the McDonalds and Subway businesses east of the Hassayampa River Bridge.

Environmental Impacts

  • In the Joshua Tree Forest along US 93 north of Wickenburg, a wide median may be considered to help preserve the trees in the median of this scenic highway.

This page updated: July 14, 2004.