Through detailed study and public input, need for South Mountain Freeway is clear

south-mountain-freeway-portalPHOENIX — Rigorous analysis that included extensive public involvement, an overwhelming need for the project and a lack of viable alternatives are among the reasons a federal judge should dismiss lawsuits challenging the South Mountain Freeway, the Arizona Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration contend in a legal filing.

ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration are scheduled to present oral arguments on May 11 in U.S. District Court in Phoenix as a judge considers motions for summary judgment in the case.

In their motion filed April 25, the agencies note that Maricopa County voters twice approved building the South Mountain Freeway, most recently in 2004 through Proposition 400, which authorized the comprehensive, multimodal Regional Transportation Plan. They note the current and anticipated congestion on freeways and roads in one of the nation’s fastest-growing regions, especially Interstate 10 through downtown Phoenix, and how a new freeway corridor will improve how people and goods get around.

ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration completed a rigorous 13-year analysis, taking into account thousands of formal comments from community members, according to the motion. That includes developing a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement that complies with federal law and follows best practices for transportation projects.

“The need for the South Mountain Freeway is clear, and Valley voters have realized this for more than 30 years. While there is no ‘perfect’ freeway project, ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration have worked to study the likely impacts of this project and designed ways to minimize those impacts, just as we have done for decades throughout the Valley as the freeway system was developed,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “You only need to travel through the Broadway Curve on I-10 during rush hour to see the problem – Phoenix today doesn’t have the highway capacity to meet traffic demand. The South Mountain Freeway will better meet today’s traffic needs, while supporting better mobility in the future.”

The 22-mile freeway, expected to open in late 2019, will provide a long-planned direct link between the East Valley and West Valley, and will complete the Loop 202 and Loop 101 systems.

In February, ADOT finalized the state’s first highway public-private partnership agreement through which the project team, Connect 202 Partners, will build the freeway at a taxpayer savings of more than $100 million and will open it to traffic three years sooner than originally projected. The fixed $916 million contract for design and construction makes this the largest highway project in state history. The development team will be responsible for 30 years of maintenance following the completion of the project, supporting construction with innovation and built-in cost efficiencies for the long term.

With construction scheduled to begin this summer, ADOT is conducting preliminary engineering, addressing cultural resources in the right of way, acquiring and preparing properties, and relocating utilities. ADOT received final federal clearance to move forward with the project in spring 2015.

For more information, visit azdot.gov/SouthMountainFreeway.

Four-hour closure scheduled Friday night on SR 89 at Hell Canyon, weather permitted

CHINO VALLEY — As progress continues on the new bridge over Hell Canyon on State Route 89 (milepost 346), approximately 13 miles north of Chino Valley, crews will need to close the road to pour concrete on the bridge deck Friday (May 6) between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m.

Drivers traveling on SR 89 Friday night into Saturday morning need to plan ahead as the road will be closed in both directions. Law enforcement will be on site to assist with the road closure.

As preparations take place leading up to the closure, crews will have SR 89 narrowed to one lane through the work zone from 6 p.m. on Friday night to 8 a.m. Saturday morning. Minimal delays are expected.

The next milestone for the bridge replacement project will be to open the new bridge to two-way traffic in mid-June.

ADOT advises drivers to proceed through the work zones with caution, slow down and be alert for construction equipment and personnel.

Northern Arizona cannot seem to shake winter

800-BillWilliams-16-05-01 001WILLIAMS — Flagstaff and Williams cannot seem to shake the winter doldrums despite a mild mid-winter. Last week was filled with light snow and some heavy rains which continued through this weekend.

This morning Williams and Flagstaff received cold weather and snow causing some icy road conditions. Less than a half-inch of snow may fall this afternoon turning to rain throughout the night.
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50% chance of thunderstorms are expected tomorrow dropping to 20% chance of rain over Monday night. Tuesday through Thursday will be clear with temperatures in the 60s.
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The chance of rain and cooler weather will return next weekend.

Latino Bible Study at First Baptist Church of Williams

Pastor Manuel and Mariana will be at First Baptist Church on Monday May 2nd for a Bible Study at 6:30 in the conference room. This great opportunity for those who speak Spanish or who know a little of it. The First Baptist Church is at 629 W Grant Ave across the street from Safeway.

ADOT pursues federal grants to advance highway improvements

PHOENIX — Improving traffic flow and safety on Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson. Helping commerce move on a state route between the border and Interstate 19 in Nogales. Rehabilitating an 850-foot-long bridge along Interstate 15 in northwestern Arizona.

Aiming to move forward sooner on those goals, the Arizona Department of Transportation is seeking $109.5 million through two highly competitive federal grant programs.

With $800 million available through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s FASTLANE grant program, established under the 2015 FAST Act, ADOT has applied for $60 million and offered to provide $86.83 million in matching funds to be used in four ways along I-10 between the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas:

• Realigning and widening four miles in the Picacho area to three lanes in each direction while reconstructing the interchange with State Route 87.
• Widening four miles between Earley Road and Interstate 8 to three lanes in each direction while upgrading ramps at Jimmie Kerr Boulevard near Casa Grande.
• Making technology enhancements to improve traffic management and safety, including remote sensors to provide early warning of approaching dust.
• Conducting preliminary engineering and completing an environmental analysis for widening 27 miles of I-10 to three lanes in each direction between the Loop 202 Santan Freeway and approximately SR 387 in Casa Grande. Any plan to widen I-10 through the Gila River Indian Community would require an agreement with the tribal government.

“The impact of Interstate 10 on Arizona’s citizens and economy is huge. Improvements to this vital link between Phoenix and Tucson are critical to our quality of life,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “Each element of the FASTLANE grant proposal will advance these efforts to continue improving I-10 and significantly benefit motorists and the flow of commerce.”

Meanwhile, ADOT has submitted Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant proposals for two projects:

• $25 million, with a proposed $39 million state match, to improve the 3.75-mile State Route 189 (Mariposa Road) in Nogales. Proposed upgrades to the route, which connects the Mariposa Port of Entry with Interstate 19 and Interstate Business 19/Grand Avenue, include a raised median and improving ramps connecting with I-19.
• $24.5 million, with a proposed $10.5 million state match, to rehabilitate Virgin River Bridge No. 1 on Interstate 15. Built in 1964 and located just east of Littlefield in the far northwestern corner of Arizona, the bridge has never undergone a major rehabilitation.

Both TIGER grant projects and the two I-10 construction projects in the FASTLANE grant are already part of ADOT’s plans, both through its current construction program and the Tentative Five-Year Transportation Facilities Construction Program that’s receiving public input and awaiting a vote by the State Transportation Board.

For Virgin River Bridge No. 1, $33 million in construction funding is programmed for fiscal 2019. For SR 189, ADOT has recommended $64 million in fiscal 2021 for construction. For the I-10 projects, ADOT has recommended $85 million in fiscal 2018 for the Picacho area and $40 million in fiscal 2019 for Earley Road to I-8.

Winning grants would allow these projects to move forward faster and enable ADOT to redirect money toward other pressing needs.

“There are no guarantees when it comes to competitive grants, but success pays big dividends for Arizona,” Halikowski said.

Since 2012, ADOT has received a total of $43.6 million through 15 competitive grants, most of them administered by U.S. DOT. Much of that amount comes from TIGER grants for a planned railroad overpass on State Route 347 in Maricopa and the ongoing reconstruction of Virgin River Bridge No. 6 on I-15.

There will be plenty of competition from other states for FASTLANE and TIGER grants. For fiscal 2015, when ADOT won a $15 million grant toward the SR 347 project, U.S. DOT received 627 eligible applications worth $10.1 billion for the $500 million available. About $500 million is available in the current round of TIGER grants.

U.S. DOT is expected to announce awards from both grant programs later this year.

Arizona Game and Fish urges public comment on proposed boating restrictions at Havasu National Wildlife Refuge

CORRECTED 160420, 10:53 a.m.

PHOENIX – The Arizona Game and Fish Department advises constituents to be aware of, and participate in, the public comment process regarding the draft recreational boating Compatibility Determination for the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released the Compatibility Determination on April 12 and opened a 30-day comment period that ends May 12. The Compatibility Determination contemplates the closure of some areas used by recreational boaters on the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department recognizes the importance of watercraft-related recreation to the Lake Havasu community and has concerns over the short 30-day comment period.

“It astounds me that USFWS is considering this proposal, given the recent history of the Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery debacle causing a halt to trout stockings and threatening some of the 1,700 jobs and $75 million generated by anglers along the Mohave County/Clark County stretch of the river,” said Arizona Game and Fish Commission Chairman Kurt Davis. “Thanks to the immediate engagement of U.S. Senator John McCain, U.S. Representative Paul Gosar, and local elected officials, USFWS has been forced to give the public a chance to make their voices heard. Arizona Game and Fish supports a 60-day public comment period extension in order to thoroughly analyze any and all impacts to recreational boating, angling, hunting and most importantly to the local economy.

“I hope that the federal government will once again listen to the public, come to their senses, and realize what devastating economic impacts their arbitrary decisions can have.”

Others are also calling for an extended comment period.

In an April 25 letter to USFWS Director Dan Ashe, Senator John McCain requested an extension, citing concerns over the economic impact of such restrictions.

“By USFWS’s own estimates, between two and three million visitors vacation at Lake Havasu annually,” wrote McCain. “Additionally, an average holiday weekend attracts 50,000 boaters to the area. The regional economic impact of visitors to Lake Havasu City is substantial, and significantly contributes to the greater regional economy… I ask that no decision be made final until a thorough attempt is made to understand and address the concerns raised by local stakeholders.”

Similarly, in a bipartisan letter today to USFWS Director Ashe, Rep. Paul Gosar and 20 other members of the House of Representatives urged an extension of the comment period for an additional 60 days.

“Countless stakeholders and members of Congress from both parties have voiced opposition and are calling on the Service to heed their concerns,” stated Gosar in a news release. “Given the significant flaws with the CD, I’ve called on the Service to drop this proposal. At minimum, the comment period should be extended 60 days as few people understand what is actually going on, including staff within the Service.”

The USFWS has currently scheduled three meetings to provide information and to gather public input.

  • May 2, 2016 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
    Relics and Rods Hall
    Lake Havasu City Community/Aquatics Center
    100 Park Avenue
    Lake Havasu City, Arizona 86403
  • May 3, 2016 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
    Avi Resort and Casino
    10000 Aha Macav Parkway
    Laughlin, Nevada 89029
  • May 3, 2016 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
    Avi Resort and Casino
    10000 Aha Macav Parkway
    Laughlin, Nevada 89029


Unless the comment period is extended, comments to the draft recreational boating Compatibility Determination for the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge will be accepted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through close of business on May 12, 2016. Please send written comments to:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Havasu National Wildlife Refuge
Attn: Draft Recreational Boating CD
317 Mesquite Avenue
Needles, CA 92363

Comments may also be emailed to: Havasu_Boating_Comments@fws.gov.

Off-highway vehicle rollover a reminder to practice OHV safety

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds all off-highway vehicle (OHV) drivers and passengers to ensure they are riding safely by carrying only the number of passengers for which their vehicle is designed.

The reminder comes after a Mohave County couple was injured when their single-rider all-terrain vehicle (ATV) flipped recently while on a difficult roadway in the Hualapai Mountains, according to the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office. Most ATVs are only designed to carry a single rider.

“It’s critically important for OHV operators not to overload their machines and to make sure they are driving with the correct number of passengers,” said Matt Eberhart, AZGFD OHV Safety Education coordinator. “Carrying too many people in any OHV, especially on a single-rider ATV, dramatically alters the handling of the vehicle and makes it unsafe and unstable for everyone aboard.”

The couple was not wearing helmets as they attempted to reach a ridge on their ATV. Unfortunately, the trail became too steep and the machine flipped backwards, according to authorities. Both were injured and one needed to be airlifted by County Search and Rescue deputies.

AZGFD reminds riders that helmets are required by law for all riders under the age of 18 regardless of the off-highway vehicle type. However, they are strongly recommended for all riders, regardless of age. In addition riders should remember to:

  • Wear a seat belt at all times, if equipped.
  • Wear riding goggles, a long-sleeved shirt, pants, riding gloves and over-the-ankle boots.
  • Never ride alone.
  • Be prepared and equipped with a map, a first aid kit, whistle and have basic tools on hand.
  • Stay on designated trails.
  • Take an OHV safety education course designed to teach off-road motorists how to ride safely and responsibly.

For more information about the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s OHV program and safety course options, visit www.azgfd.com/ohv.

Arizona Game and Fish hosts multiagency law enforcement training on Lake Pleasant

_GF12795_-_reducedPHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department and law enforcement from around the country are preparing for the upcoming boating season by participating in a two-week joint training to increase public safety on the nation’s waterways.

The training concludes Thursday evening at Lake Pleasant and is designed to prepare every law enforcement agency that patrols the state’s rivers and lakes. The course involved 25 officers from eight Arizona state and county agencies, including AZGFD, Maricopa, Coconino, La Paz and Yuma counties, Colorado River Indian Tribes, Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City police. Officers from North Dakota also participated in the training.

“These types of exercises are invaluable,” said AZGFD Watercraft Coordinator David Rigo, who is spearheading the multiagency event. “Anytime we can bring together so many partner agencies it places a national spotlight on Arizona and helps to protect the public, our country’s law enforcement and saves lives.”

The training is conducted with upwards of 66 law enforcement and civilians that serve as “violator/suspects” for officers to practice routine watercraft stops, searches, investigations and arrests. Scenarios can be anything from a wake zone violation, operating under the influence, assaults or fishing without a license.

“Just as on land, our officers handle any number of emergencies and criminal investigations, and our officers have to be prepared to handle each one of those types of incidents. It takes specific skills and training to ensure the safety of our officers and the boating public,” Rigo said.

The training is just one way the Arizona Game and Fish Department works to enhance public safety on the water. The department offers free boating safety courses in Phoenix, Lake Havasu City and Tucson.

In addition, the department is expanding its Life Jacket Loaner Station program to include more lakes throughout the state. Currently stations where the public can borrow a life jacket have been placed at Lake Pleasant, Lake Havasu, Lake Mohave and others are planned this spring and summer.

As a reminder, all boats in Arizona must have a life jacket aboard for every passenger and those 12 years old and younger must wear a life jacket at all times, under state law.

For more information on boating in Arizona or to sign up for a safety course, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating.

Kaibab recruiting for Youth Conservation Corp

azcc1The Arizona Conservation Corps is currently recruiting for Youth Conservation Corps crew members in communities adjacent to the Kaibab National Forest. Applications will be accepted through May 15. This is an outstanding opportunity for young people between the ages of 16 and 18 to learn conservation and job skills and earn financial support for college.

Crew members are being sought from the Williams, Tusayan and Fredonia/Kanab areas as well as other nearby communities. Of special interest, the Tusayan area crew is known as an Ancestral Lands Youth Conservation Corps crew and is specifically recruiting Native American students.

For additional information or to apply, the contact is Judy Tincher, Arizona Conservation Corps, 928-853-7760 or judy@conservationlegacy.org.

North Kaibab Ranger District fuelwood permits available May 2

FREDONIA — Each year, approximately 3,000 cords of legally cut firewood are removed from the North Kaibab Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest. This year, the 10-cord maximum per household has been increased to 12 cords, while the price remains the same at $5 per cord, with a four-cord minimum.

“This is a big deal as we have more supply than demand here,” said North Kaibab District Ranger Randall Walker. “We have an ample and naturally occurring supply of firewood on the Kaibab Plateau and this cord increase will aid in improving forest health while also giving our neighbors more fuel to heat their homes.”

On May 2, the district will begin issuing paid personal-use and post and pole fuelwood permits at the district office located at 430 S. Main Street between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays. The fuelwood cutting season ends Nov. 30.

Below is a brief synopsis of prices and some regulations to be mindful of when harvesting any dead standing and dead-downed trees on the district. For more detailed information regarding all the permit criteria, regulations, restrictions and maps for the Kaibab National Forest, please visit www.fs.usda.gov/goto/kaibab/fuelwood.

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