Special to the Tribune
PRESCOTT - A proposed shortcut from Prescott Valley to Prescott sparked widespread opposition during a meeting Tuesday evening in the Yavapai Hills subdivision clubhouse.
A number of the estimated 150 people in attendance questioned the need for the proposed Sundog Connector and suggested developers who own land along the proposed route would benefit the most from it.
They recommended widening highways 69 and 89 instead of building the connector, which would head north of the Yavapai Hills subdivision.
Construction is at least five years away, Charla Glendening, planning program manager for the Arizona Department of Transportation in Phoenix, said after the meeting that her agency conducted.
"A more realistic timeline is 15 to 20 years" before construction were to begin, she said.
Her agency is paying for a study, but it would be a City of Prescott project if it were to proceed. The study area shows the proposed connector extending about three and a half miles from the roundabout at Prescott Lakes Parkway in Prescott to the Sundog Ranch Road intersection in Prescott Valley.
The proposed connector drew support from only three people when Yavapai Hills homeowner Gary Liscombe asked for a showing of support at the meeting.
Liscombe, a retired police officer from Wayne County, Mich., who has lived in Yavapai Hills for six years, said after the hourlong meeting that he opposes the proposed connector because it does not make any sense to him.
"Whoever owns the land is going to profit from it," he said.
Another homeowner who spoke out at the meeting, Gretchen Masterson, explained afterward that she is "terribly opposed" because the southernmost proposed route is only yards from her property. She said the connector would increase noise as well as traffic congestion on Sunrise Boulevard, the entrance to Yavapai Hills from Highway 69.
"We hope it is not built there at all," said Masterson, who moved to the subdivision about six years ago after retiring from teaching at an online college in San Diego.
"It is too much impact to an existing community," she said. "It needs to go where it does not impact any-one on the far side of Glassford Hill, or they need to improve two existing roads (highway 69 and 89)."
Traffic congestion on Highway 69 and population growth sparked the need for the proposed connector, according to ADOT officials. Tricia Lewis, senior communicators officer for the Prescott District of ADOT, said Highway 69 draws average daily traffic of 50,000 vehicles a day between Prescott and Prescott Valley.
With a population base of 174,900 to 232,700 people in the region, the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization would justify the need for a two-lane Sundog connector, ADOT consultant Rebecca Fly said during her presentation. CYMPO serves an area that includes Prescott, Prescott Valley, Dewey-Humboldt, Chino Valley and Paulden.
A population base of 232,700 to 286,400 would call for a four-lane Sundog connector, said Fly, project manager with Parsons Brinckerhoff in Tempe.
An elusive factor is funding the project, Fly and Glendening explained.
Noting the vocal opposition at the meeting, Glendening said, "I think it is important that the City of Prescott listens to the public as they move forward with the planning efforts."
Councilman Chris Kuknyo, who attended the meeting and serves on CYMPO's board, said afterward, "Right now they are just looking at it. There is no money set aside to make that happen. There has been no design or anything."
He said the city needs to focus now on widening the 0.8-mile stretch of Highway 69 between Yavapai-Prescott tribal land east to Prescott Lakes Parkway, as well as widening Highway 89 from Ruger Road north to Highway 89A.