Year of the Rattlesnake? Maybe 2012

KINGMAN - Public Works Director Rob Owen and Arizona Department of Transportation Engineer Mike Kondelis spent nearly two hours Tuesday evening describing the current status of the Rattlesnake Wash Interstate 40 traffic interchange project and fielding questions from the public.

About 30 citizens crammed into the library at 3269 Burbank St. to attend the year's first town hall meeting, hosted by local advocacy group Residents Against Irresponsible Development. Vice Mayor Janet Watson and Councilwoman Robin Gordon were also in attendance to discuss the interchange.

Rattlesnake Wash is a two-phase project located about three miles east of the I-40 Andy Devine Avenue exit that will, in theory, connect the eastern and southern portions of Kingman to the airport. The interchange includes a proposed parkway, which will run from Hualapai Mountain Road north to Louise Avenue, then under the interstate and further north to the airport's Industrial Boulevard.

Owen said the city has signed a letter of intent with ADOT to jointly fund the first phase of the project, which includes the interchange itself, as well as the section of parkway connecting Louise to the airport. The first phase will cost approximately $35.8 million total, though ADOT has agreed to pay just over $25 million of the sum, leaving the city to fund the remaining $10.7 million.

"The city does have a signed letter of intent with ADOT to split those costs on a 70 percent/30 percent basis," Owen said. "The state transportation board has programmed $18 million for fiscal year 2013, and they'll consider the remaining $7 million this upcoming year for 2014."

Owen noted, however, that ADOT has thus far committed no funding to the project's second phase, which would complete the parkway south from Louise to Hualapai Mountain Road.

Owen said the phase would cost Kingman an additional $11.7 million, and would require the city to complete all planning and acquire 22 acres of right of way by 2011, with design and construction completed no later than 2015.

Owen said the project still has a long way to go before even the first phase of construction can begin - in fact, the design phase for phase one won't conclude until March 2010.

But while progress has been slow, Owen said the city has been taking necessary steps to secure 81 acres of right of way, as well as pursuing the annexation of about 800 acres of land directly north and northeast of the proposed interchange.

"Title reports have been ordered, we've actually received those title reports and they've been submitted to ADOT for review," Owen said. "Once those title reports are approved by ADOT, we'll begin contacting the property owners."

The city also needs to do geotechnical testing and other design fieldwork that will require temporary rights of entry from some of the property owners. Owen said once the title reports are approved by ADOT, the city could begin work on gaining the rights of entry.

"Since this is a partially-federally funded and state funded project, or federally funded through the state, we do need to observe all ADOT acquisition procedures," he said. "There are different rules and requirements for property acquisition for state and federal projects."

Owens said the Feb. 2 City Council agenda will include an inter-governmental agreement between the city and ADOT to allow ADOT to contract for the necessary surveying and right of way plans to meet state and federal specifications, with the city footing the $300,000 bill.

If the city is able to get its share of the funding together for phase one, Kondelis said construction could begin by July 1, 2012. That's the first day of fiscal year 2013, and also the first day ADOT would be free to commit its share of the project cost. "It's going to be a couple of years before we can bid the project out," Kondelis said. "Once we do get started, we expect it to be a year-and-a-half to two-year project. It's a fairly extensive project with all the road work that has to get done, as well as the interchange itself."

But the unanswered question remained how, exactly, the city would procure its share of the funding. Councilwoman Gordon assured the audience that city staff had already approached adjacent property owners several times to discuss what part they might have in funding the interchange, but she admitted concrete answers were still well in the future.

"We're pretty much in the preliminary stages," she said. "There are several options, though - a bond is possibly one, development agreements with the property owners, improvement districts; there's a lot of different ways it could be funded. It hasn't yet been determined which way we'll go."

Vice Mayor Watson said the process would likely move faster if the city knew it had money to burn, but with budgets tightening at every level of government, she said the city and the citizenry would have to carefully consider how funding should work over the coming years.