Cause of traffic nightmare explained, won't be repeated

Rachel Duhaime discusses what went wrong at the Run for the Wall event May 18, when hundreds of motorcyclists rode into town without a police escort or permission to manipulate traffic flow. (DOUG McMURDO/Miner)

Rachel Duhaime discusses what went wrong at the Run for the Wall event May 18, when hundreds of motorcyclists rode into town without a police escort or permission to manipulate traffic flow. (DOUG McMURDO/Miner)

KINGMAN - The city of Kingman took a hit on a national scale following the May 18 Run for the Wall veterans event after the city declined to provide traffic control or to allow the group to fill that function.

And while City Manager John Dougherty took "full responsibility" for the logistical nightmare that befell hundreds of motorcyclists on their way from California to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., the city might not have deserved the black eye it received after letters highly critical of Kingman and its police department were published in the Kingman Daily Miner. They were then read and commented on by tens of thousands of visitors to the newspaper's website.

In fact, there's plenty of blame to go around. For one, Dougherty said the Arizona Department of Transportation declined to give the group a permit to exit Interstate 40 at Andy Devine Avenue - Route 66 - which is a state highway, and perform its own traffic control to allow a long line of motorcyclists to travel unfettered through a number of traffic signals as they made their way to Mother Road Harley Davidson on Beverly Avenue.

Run for the Wall organizers also can share in the blame, if blame is the correct word, if only because they couldn't meet ADOT requirements.

ADOT, said Dougherty, refused to grant the permit because Run for the Wall did not have adequate insurance. They had a $1 million policy, he said, but ADOT required a $5 million policy, which the group could not purchase.

ADOT also made it crystal clear to Kingman that if the city provided traffic control "it would be on its own" if there were an incident. Mohave County refused to join with the city, who made the decision to have the KPD stand down after advising Run for the Wall participants that they would have to follow the traffic laws or risk being cited.

The fallout left the city with egg on its face, said Dougherty. Local car dealership owner Martin Swanty and his son Cody called out Mayor Richard Anderson on social media, questioning the mayor's patriotism for not showing up at Mother Road Harley-Davidson. Anderson had a longstanding appointment in Flagstaff.

KPD was accused of threatening participants with jail if they ran red lights or committed other driving infractions, an assertion Deputy Police Chief Rusty Cooper said never happened.

Other letter writers said the group was fully supported when it exited the interstate at Williams and Holbrook, the only other scheduled stops in the state. That could be because no state highways were in play in those two small communities.

"We respect Run for the Wall," said Dougherty. "But they did not acquire a permit to allow traffic manipulation... with no permit, they must obey traffic laws."

"This is not a fun run," said veteran and Kingman resident Rachel Duhaime, who communicated with city officials in the days leading up to the event. She said Run for the Wall is designed to help veterans come to terms with their service and to honor those who were killed in action, missing in action or prisoners of war.

About 20 people were there to hear the city's explanation for what happened - and why - and Anderson ensured them the city supports veterans, supports the Run for the Wall and he said there won't be a repeat.

"Next year, it is going to be the event in Kingman," said Anderson.

"You guys did try to help," said Duhaime. "I want people to know that."