Study of Yuma Expressway gets cool response
No one at an open house held Tuesday evening to collect public comment on the feasibility of a loop highway around the southwestern part of the city spoke in favor of such a potential expressway.
That included the consultants hired to conduct a $250,000 study of a proposed corridor alignment.
The study is being conducted through the Planning Assistance for Rural Areas program of the Arizona Department of Transportation that provides federal funds to non-metropolitan communities for transportation planning studies.
It had been requested by the city of Yuma, which for several years has advocated for an expressway to alleviate increasing congestion on city streets.
Tuesday's public hearing was the first of two opportunities for the public to weigh in before the report is finalized in early 2013.
The consensus of those who spoke is that they don't want the expressway, saying it would take valuable farmland and lead to encroachment on Marine Corps Air Station Yuma. Besides, they said, there's not enough traffic in the area to warrant a new six-lane highway in the proposed corridor along Avenue D and County 14th Street.
Midway into the study process, the findings support that argument.
Current traffic models project that current roadways will continue to have acceptable operating levels for at least the next 20 years, said Greg Fly, civil engineer with the consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff. Even then, with some improvements such as additional turn lanes, existing roadways would be able to carry projected increases in traffic well into the future.
“Based on the assessment of traffic conditions in 2033, the roadways within the study area for this project will perform at a LOS B (good movement of traffic) or better,” the study concluded in its forecast of future conditions. “Therefore, given the current adopted land use plans and corresponding future socio-economic conditions, significant roadway capacity improvements are not warranted.”
Fly suggested that rather than identify a year when another look at the expressway would be warranted, instead use a population benchmark to trigger it.
He noted that by 2033, the population of Yuma County is projected to grow to about 370,000 people, with a large portion of the growth in the southern part of the county. The city of San Luis' population is projected to increase by more than 115 percent, while Somerton's population is expected to grow by nearly 93 percent.
At that time, Fly said, traffic on Avenue D and County 14th Street could be impacted.
The current corridor study actually dusts off a previous study conducted in 1988 by ADOT to identify options to meet short- and long-term needs for additional access to Interstate 8 and U.S. 95. The study resulted in the development of State Route 195 completed in 2009 to connect the international border with I-8.
The second alternative in that earlier study recommended a loop around MCAS, the corridor now being considered for the Yuma Expressway.
For more information about the study, visit www.azdot.gov/yumaexpressway. Send comments to Gabriella Kemp, ADOT Yuma District spokeswoman, at email@example.com.
Joyce Lobeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6853. Find her on Twitter at @YSJoyceLobeck.