If this was a football game, it would be coming up on halftime.
The city of Sedona has hit the halfway point of its $250,000 transportation master plan, which is an attempt to find ways to reduce traffic in the area. Representatives from the consulting firm of Kimley-Horn appeared before the Sedona City Council on Wednesday, Nov. 9, to give a six-month update on the progress of the study, which is expected to be done in May.
“This is an opportunity to share with you what we’ve been working on the last six or seven months,” Assistant City Manager Karen Osburn said. “It’s not an opportunity to talk about solutions or conclusions. We are still in the preliminary phases.
“We have tried to be very deliberate about not jumping to conclusions. We’ve also been very deliberate about collecting data and we’re very much in the midst of trying to interpret, synthesize and analyze that data to look for answers.”
Kimley-Horn’s Brent Crowther was on hand and took council through nearly two dozen slides that contained data gathered since April. He first began by praising the response they have received to the city’s online traffic survey that had received more than 2,000 responses in two weeks.
“I’ve never been part of a study that’s received that many responses, so that’s very commendable,” he said. “Typical response rate in a couple hundred, which is really good. So you’ve exceed that by about 10 times so congratulations on that.”
Crowther said that based upon figures from the Sedona Chamber of Commerce, Sedona receives an average of 2.8 million visitors a year in a town with just over 10,000 residents. Statistics from that from 2011 to 2015 show that the city’s population grew by 3 percent while the number of visitors and vehicles [as reported by the Arizona Department of Transportation] each increased by 10 percent.
He said based on data obtained from March of this year, there was an average of 45,000 people within the Sedona city limits on any given day that month. Of those, 23 percent were residents, 34 percent day-trippers, 11 percent commuters and 32 percent multi-day visitors. This data will be used to help determine traffic patters and the number of trips within the city during a peak time of the year.
Information gathered from ADOT shows that on Saturday, April 16, traffic on State Route 89A was 30 percent higher than on any given day in January — the slowest month of the year in terms of visitors. On that same day on State Route 179, traffic was 46 percent higher than in January. From data like this, Crowther said they hope to better determine why Sedona is so mobility-challenged, aside from the fact there are just three ways in and out of Sedona.
A statistic that jumped off the screen was in regard to State Route 179. Studies have shown that 85 to 90 percent of visitors coming to Sedona via Interstate 17 use 179 while the rest use State Route 260 to Cottonwood and then up 89A.
In terms of the cause of congestion, Crowther said it comes down to limited transportation choices, lack of connectivity among city streets, travel time unpredictability and congestion within Oak Creek Canyon.
“If you arrive in Phoenix at 7:30 a.m., you know you’re going to have to add an additional 45 minutes to your trip,” he said. “We don’t have that same predictability here, especially for the visitors coming into town. They expect to kept going 45 mph all the way while enjoying the vistas and the views. But they get into congestion and it extends their travel time and it leads to frustration. It’s the same with the residents. If they’re predictable they can prepare for this [congestion] and can alter their trip patterns and the time they leave to try and mitigate those peak periods.”
Councilwoman Jessica Williamson asked at what point in this study will council be presented costs for various projects. She also asked if they would be broken down into projects the city could afford on its own and those in which the city will need to work in conjunction with ADOT or Coconino and Yavapai counties.
“All of our project recommendations will have planning level costs developed for them to help you evaluate and prioritize what are the most effective solutions for the cost,” Crowther said.
Now that the study had hit the halfway mark, from here it will include:
- Kimley-Horn will prepare what’s being called Working Paper No. 2, which will capture the results of workshops, while summarizing development of alternatives and strategies.
- Following the first phase of public outreach [survey], Kimley-Horn will begin to develop recommended improvements and strategies as part of the draft Transportation Master Plan.
- The second phase of public outreach will occur in April to present the recommended strategies, and will include presentations to community organizations, on-line engagement and surveys and a community charrette.
- The final Transportation Master Plan will be completed by the end of May and will be presented to council in June.