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Town's economy won't benefit from SR 260 proposal

The Camp Verde Journal of Camp Verde, Arizona

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Next spring, the Arizona Department of Transportation is finally expected to widen State Route 260 after nearly a decade of an inefficient roadway between Cottonwood and Interstate 17.

The project was proposed in the early 2000s, but it wasn't until a head-on collision in 2004 brought the issue to the forefront, when a local pastor, several of his children and another driver were killed in a four-car pileup.

ADOT's initial proposal called for a two-lane divided road from Cottonwood through Camp Verde to 1-17, south of the existing State Route 260, where it would connect at 1-17 at General Crook Trail.

The Camp Verde Town Council fought on behalf of its residents and taxpayers, fearing a two-lane road would keep drivers from visiting local businesses that were already there or could be built along the wider road. While the attempt was a noble defense of Camp Verde's businesses, the eventual conclusion has been more of a detriment than a benefit.

A decade later, the Cottonwood portion of the project is a smooth, beautiful and safe stretch before hitting the narrow two-lane road in Camp Verde town limits, that did nothing to alleviate the risk of high-speed vehicles passing each other at highway speeds. Though wider, another fatal multiple head-on collision is one error in a split second away and our staff has covered many over the last decade.

The primary agitator and tax generator in those discussions, a car dealership, is closed and for sale and only a few new businesses have opened along the Camp Verde stretch of the road, most of which do not depend on "impulse" buyers, but are destinations for their customers: Out of Africa Wildlife Park, a gun range, a business-to-business marketing company, an RV dealership, a new market, a storage business and the car dealership, when it reopens.

Yet ADOT is going forward with a $62 million project that would add at least six roundabouts on State Route 260 between Cottonwood and 1-17. The road will be safer, but slower. Drivers headed to Phoenix or central Arizona from Cottonwood or Sedona will have a slower connection to 1-17 rather than an efficient straight shot along a stretch were they didn't plan to make any stops anyway.

The current State Route 260 could be turned into a dedicated business corridor and with fewer vehicles that have opted to take the fast southerly route out of the Verde Valley, more Camp Verde businesses could develop along the road knowing the drivers on it are there for shopping, not merely trying to fly by as fast as they can.

The councils of Camp Verde, Clarkdale, Sedona, Cottonwood and Jerome should be resisting this project tooth and nail and demanding that ADOT build the initial project to General Crook Trail so their residents heading southbound can have a faster, safer access to 1-17. We must press our elected officials to provide residents with an efficient and safer route.

Copyright 2015 The Camp Verde Journal, Camp Verde, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: June 17, 2015

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