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ADOT Brass Stalls SR 89A Continuous Lighting

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Sedona AZ (January 31, 2010) – The  Arizona State Transportation Board voted 3-2 at its Friday, January 16, 2010 meeting against a motion to fund ADOT’s plan to install continuous lighting along S.R. 89A in West Sedona.

Board members deferred a final decision on ADOT’s plan until after a special work study session is held February 3, 2010 where board members will listen to testimony from the public and review documentation and data on the need for continuous lighting.

Sedona City Council candidates Barbara Litrell, and Mike Ward; 89A Highway Safety Panel members Doug Blackwell and Cliff Ochser; and Sedona citizens Marlene Rayner, Steve DeVol, and Juliette Coloangelo requested the S.R. 89A lighting project be pulled from the board’s consent agenda for discussion.

Board member Robert Montoya, the representative from Coconino County, accommodated their request to remove the item from the consent agenda.

The Sedona community contingent expressed their opposition to the project, promoted by ADOT as a safety measure that would improve pedestrian and vehicular safety at night on S.R. 89A.

After the twenty-one minute presentation, STB Yavapai County representative Bill Feldmeier  moved to approve funding the project. His motion was defeated by a 3-2 vote. The item was tabled.

Staff was directed to provide additional information and details in addition to what was provided in their original report.

According to Ward, the board requested ADOT staff to provide the Highway 89A Safety Panel report and data on ADOT’s  interaction with the community and members of the Sedona City Council.

Ward said board members will examine documentation supporting the comments made by the Sedona representatives at that meeting.

He said the State Transportation Board will review video of discussions between city council members and ADOT staff at pertinent city council meetings.

The board will also review the petitions and surveys conducted on support or opposition to continuous lighting in the community.

According to Ward, the board will examine alleged email exchanges obtained through the Freedom of Information Act between two Sedona city council members who supported the continuous lighting.

These council members allegedly discussed the lights as a means of getting power cables laid down at ADOT’s expense that could be used in the future when S.R. 89A is redeveloped.

Rayner, president of the Sierra Club in Sedona, said she was grateful for the board members who took time and interest in the Sedona contingent’s concerns over the lighting. “I am heartened that these wonderful thoughtful people feel it is their duty to review this entire situation before it proceeds any further in the planning process,” she said. “They also seemed to feel Sedona is a special place that needs lots of consideration. Nothing is over till it is over!”

Litrell said she is pleased with the State Transportation Board’s decision to conduct a thorough review.

“I was encouraged that the board has asked for a work session on the lights,” she said. “It seems they didn’t have all the information about the project here in Sedona. I’m hopeful that the work session will enlighten them to the facts and that a context sensitive safety solution, not continuous roadway lighting, will be the result.”

The next meeting of the State Transportation Board is scheduled to take place in Sedona February 19, 2010.

The following are transcripts of Sedona contingent’s testimony at the State Transportation Board Meeting.

Barbara Litrell’s testimony:

“Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to speak this morning. My name is Barbara Litrell and I am a resident of Sedona. I would like to address the issue of whether there is a night time safety problem on SR 89A in West Sedona.

The answer is yes, but it is not because of lack of continuous roadway lighting. It is because of a lack of a safe crossing at the Andante 89A intersection. Three people were struck and killed in almost the same place and in the same manner — in the leftmost West bound lane, in the vicinity of Andante Drive, at night, between September 2000 and January 2006.”

A fourth pedestrian death (police reports say he was under the influence and lying in the road) occurred in April 2006 but was west of the fully lighted intersection at Dry Creek Road, outside the study area — therefore it is not relevant to the data and the lights — so we are really speaking about three pedestrian deaths from 2000 to 2006.

“With stepped up enforcement of vehicle and pedestrian jaywalking laws, a lowered sped limit from 40 to 35, night time injury accidents on 89A have dropped 40 percent and there has not been a pedestrian death since April 2006. If ADOT were to do a more current three-year study, 2007-2009, there would be no statistical evidence to install highway lighting.

The May 2006 report upon which ADOT based the lighting recommendation never asked the obvious question — why is the Andante intersection so dangerous?

A warrant study on Andante was not done in conjunction with the report — the last study was done in 2001. A new one was done and it did show that the Andante intersection lighting is now warranted.

The problem at Andante is twofold — it is midpoint in a mile without a safe crossing. The rest of 89A has intersections 1/4 to 1/2 mile apart in the study area. In addition, the topography of Andante is such that the road rises from Rodeo Drive to Andante.

A driver’s view in the left most west bound lane will be dominated at night by oncoming vehicle headlights as they crest the hill…and are overwhelmed by a glare bomb of light at Andante from a spotlight at the Circle K? and other commercial lighting. A pedestrian is swallowed by the glare. An unsigned ADOT report of November 2007 said, “with this much brightness of glare, it makes it almost impossible to see a pedestrian.”

The answer is a signalized intersection at Andante with intersection lighting and maybe one or two roadway lights preceding the intersection…not 76 continuous roadway lights. The cost would be less.

Taking a regional approach to the issue, you could use the rest of the money to complete the Highway 260 project from Cottonwood to Camp Verde.

The intersection should be fully signalized and continuous roadway lighting should be abandoned as unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer’s money. This would save money and energy, and avoid light pollution and light trespass into adjoining neighborhoods of Sedona.”

Doug Blackwell’s testimony:

“My name is Doug Blackwell. I am a retired engineer, Sedona resident, community member of the 89A Safety Panel and THE member of the panel chosen to present the Panel’s recommendations to the Sedona City Council.

There were 3 significant errors made by ADOT in their use of the May 2003 Paul Box/ADOT Report on continuous lights. THIS is the report used to justify continuous roadway lighting in Sedona.

1- ADOT told Sedona City Council that they should receive a 40 percent safety improvement from continuous lights. ADOT failed to COMPLETE the sentence on page 87 of the report in which Paul Box corrected that 40 percent down to 18 percent.

2- ADOT failed to apply the correct percent to current Sedona data for the council. If they had, they would have been suggesting 1.2 fewer injuries in all of 2009 and 0.8 fewer injuries in all of 2008. Sedona’s typical total has been 2 to 3 injuries at night for the entire year.

Yes, that is what ADOT staff has you voting on here today, a 0.8 person reduction in injuries, or 2.7 percent of the 30-per-year injury total on W. 89A.

3- Page 96, the SUMMARY of the Paul Box Report was not read to council: (I quote the summary here): “While it is seldom possible to warrant continuous rural highway lighting on a benefit-cost basis, a moderate expenditure for intersection lighting may be warranted, based on these studies.”

For a city like Sedona with few nighttime accidents and very few nighttime injuries, continuous lights are not the answer; a traffic light at the intersection at Andante Drive is!

One of ADOT’s engineers stated at the first meeting of the Safety Panel that, (and I quote) “We will have a data driven solution.”

The final recommendations of the Safety Panel were just that – data driven solutions.

An integral part of the final report of the Panel was national data discussed for three months by the Panel which resulted in a dozen recommendations by the Panel ranging from the BEST solutions for Sedona: two to three sensor-activated crosswalks or medians with a 40 percent to 90 percent improvement in safety, being BY FAR the LEAST SIGNIFICANT solution: continuous lights with a 2.7 to 5.6 percent improvement in safety per Sedona data.

The Sedona 89A Safety Panel made up of six ADOT engineers, six Sedona city engineers and staff; three community members, and four technical advisors. After six months of study, they found that continuous streetlights were the least effective in improving safety on West 89A in Sedona.

For the public record, here is a copy of the Final Report of the 89A Safety Panel and the 2003 Paul Box Report. Thank you.”

Marlene Rayner’s testimony:

“Good Morning, Chairman Householder and Board of Governors. My name is Marlene Rayner.  I am a resident of Sedona.

I am here today to ask “Does the City Council support installation of continuous streetlights on West 89A?  The answer is No! I have three points I would like to make today.

First:  At the October 28th meeting – the last one the Council heard on this issue – four of the six  councilors spoke against continuous lighting,–  Counselors Hamilton,  Adams, Bradshaw, Colquitt, spoke against continuous roadway lighting.

Councilor Hamilton said and I quote: “I was stunned at John Harper’s comment. I was stunned to hear him say ‘We’re going to stuff this down your throat whether you like it or not.”  That’s just so arrogant I don’t have words for it.

The data is clear. We’re not trying to solve a safety problem. It’s true when people ignore data; they ignore fact, rationality, that there is always a hidden agenda.”

Councilor Colquitt said and I quote:  “The city didn’t ask for lights. It didn’t ask for anything with the exception other than there is a problem on the highway at night and we need help to get it addressed. It was a health, safety and welfare issue. In 2006 we were informed there would be streetlights and nothing was said for almost a year.”

Councilor Bradshaw said and I quote: “It all started back when all council was asking for was a traffic signal at Andante and somehow it’s blown into this disaster. If we can go back to traffic lights at Andante and Airport we’d all be happy. But if we could go back to signalizing the intersections (at Andante and Airport ) and the emergency light at Southwest Drive, that would make all of us and the community happy.”

Mayor Adams said I quote: “I am against the lights. I haven’t heard an overwhelming support for continuous roadway lighting tonight and I think ADOT heard that. I’m going to summarize what I did hear. I heard that people wonder if we still need the lights. I heard there have been no pedestrian accidents since we lowered the speed limit and increased enforcement. He heard it’s a different economic world right now and this concerns him.

“The biggest thing I heard was it goes against the will of the majority of people in the town. The issue here is supposed to be about pedestrian safety and how best to accomplish it. I feel the best way to approach this is by envisioning how we want that corridor to look in the future and discussing the lights is something we should do during the redevelopment plan and not right now. If we put the lights in now we may say that was never the solution, it was never part of the grand scheme of things. It’s just putting the cart before the horse and I’ve told ADOT that. I will continue to oppose highway lighting. I think it’s the wrong solution.”

Third:  It’s come to light that two others who remain on council (Counselors Scagnelli and Surber) seem to have ulterior motives for voting for streetlights, which were not concerned with safety.  

At least 10 emails were uncovered as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request. The emails were similar, so I will quote only two:

Counselor Scagnelli said and I quote: “When we finally get around to redevelopment on that corridor, maybe some of the lights will be changed into pedestrian lights, but the major expense of bringing power to the street will have been done at virtually no expense to the City.

“When we do get around to redevelopment in West Sedona, and we add some strategic medians, we can change the lights out to pedestrian lights or whatever, but the infrastructure will be in place and not on our penny.”

Is this what the Board of Governors and FHWA wants to be doing – funding infrastructure instead of funding safety – when the funds are so desperately needed elsewhere?”

Juliette Colangelo’s testimony:

“I’m Juliette Colangelo, retired psychotherapist and Sedona resident. I am asking the delicate question: “Does ADOT staff follow agency policy and goals in regard to working with local governments and citizens as outlined on your website?” In our Sedona experience, the answer has been “no.”

The following statements regarding community involvement are on the ADOT website:

n  Earn the Public’s Trust through Honest, Truthful, Open and Ethical Behavior;

n  We serve our customers. Their satisfaction is our focus;

n  ADOT must always strive to make Arizona’s transportation infrastructure safe;

n  The willingness of department staff and consultants to remain open to new ideas from constituents, and to incorporate those suggestions where appropriate, is essential to the execution of our mission;

n  Public participation includes the promise that the public’s contribution will influence the decision.

May I contrast these lofty statements with a partial quote from the 17 p. summary minutes of the Sedona City Council Meeting on October 28, 2009?

“Councilor Hamilton asked how ADOT would respond if Council withdrew its approval or request for the lighting system. John [Harper of ADOT] stated they feel it’s a project they need to move forward on and ADOT is willing to do that without the city’s support.  They’re willing to build it, operate it and maintain it…  Councilor Hamilton asked a second question on behalf of the folks in the audience who want to know the answer, if the citizens of Sedona forbade the use of city finances to go toward this project, would ADOT build it anyway?  John [Harper] stated they would go ahead.”

You, the Board, should be aware, if ADOT staff is doing its job, that there is enormous community opposition to the installation of continuous lighting, because it leaves our safety issues unaddressed.  You should have been informed that, at the Sedona City Council meeting on August 13, 2008, John Harper of ADOT refused to engage the Council in dialogue about safety recommendations and in answer to questions, simply repeated, “We are here to support the recommendations of the safety committee.” He then refused to do just that, instead accepting direction to install continuous roadway lighting.

It seems clear that stated goals of ADOT both in terms of safety and community involvement are not being met in Sedona.  Rather, we are having an erroneous and unnecessary measure forced on us.”

Cliff Ochser’s testimony:

“My name is Clifford Ochser and I have been a resident of Sedona for 12 years. I was also a member of the 89A Safety Panel. You have heard compelling arguments and passionate testimony from members of the public who have driven here from Sedona, taken an entire day off from their responsibilities, drove 4 hours this morning to speak to you for three minutes.  I hope that you will take this as seriously as we do.

Is there an ongoing safety problem at night on 89A? Yes, and it can be addressed with the signalized intersection at Andante, as you have heard.

Is the majority of the Sedona City Council really in favor of continuous roadway lighting ? No, and you have heard their own words at the city council meeting — but they feel they have no choice.

Is the community in favor of continuous roadway lighting? Overwhelmingly, no! And with the pending election of new council members and the mayor, you will probably see a change in government in Sedona. There is a strong possibility that the new council will reverse their support of lights just as the new council in a number of years ago reversed their support of a four-lane highway on S.R. 179 in the Village of Oak Creek. And now, you have an award winning highway.

Do you know that 51 percent of the citizens of Sedona consider lights the hottest issue in this upcoming election?

Your staff responded to an FOIA request and told us that the public comment has not been reviewed yet and is not a public document.  How can you approve this project without that data? You can’t.

By approving this project you are rejecting the overwhelming majority of Sedona taxpayers who do not want continuous roadway lighting on 89A. You are ignoring the fact that the majority of our city council has stated they do not want continuous roadway lighting but feel like they have no choice.

By moving forward on this project while ignoring the substantial community opposition to this project, you are abdicating your responsibility to work with communities as described in your Mission Statement and goals.

By approving this project you are wasting taxpayer money on a proposed solution that does not statistically improve safety. We find it hard to believe you really want to do this.

ADOT engineers participated in the Safety panel and committed to an open, respectful and statistically driven process. Everyone was operating on good faith and we achieved consensus.

Your District Engineer, Mr. Harper, said before the Sedona City Council in August “we ask you to support and approve the 89A safety panel recommendations.” on at least 12 occasions that night.

Just three months later, Mr. Harper told Councilor Cliff Hamilton at the next Council meeting if council reverses its decision to support the install of lights, ADOT will go forward with lights and will pay for the power indefinitely.

I ask you, is this ethical, community-oriented and respectful?  I find it hard to believe you would want to move forward under these circumstances.

People come from all round the world to visit Sedona and are amazed by the beauty, both day and night. By approving this project you will be destroying part of Sedona’s economy at a time when we can least afford it. In addition, you will be pushing our businesses over the edge financially by obstructing driveways and causing congestion for business.

As was suggested today, take the funding and apply it to the completion of the Hwy 260 project between Cottonwood and Camp Verde or in Tombstone AZ where the mayor is screaming for lights after several pedestrian deaths recently. The federal funding stays in our state and go where the people want it and where it is needed instead of to a community that overwhelmingly does not want it.

We are asking you to deny approval of this project or at the very least remove this item from the PPAC agenda and do your due diligence before approving it. You will have an opportunity to hear from the community at your Board meeting in Sedona. You do not have all the facts. I hope that you will take your responsibility seriously and look at all the facts.”

This article written and submitted by Tommy Acosta.

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