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10:47 AM Sun, Feb. 17th

Expansion creates gridlock

City looks to relieve congestion caused by underpass opening, Louise Avenue closing

KINGMAN - City official have been bombarded with residents' questions and concerns regarding traffic congestion following the opening of the Airway Underpass and the simultaneous closure of Louise Avenue in late September.

Private companies in the area, the city and the railroad split the $9 million cost of the underpass project in an effort to eliminate the dangers associated with the railroad crossing at Louise.

But with that closing, traffic congestion has surged along Andy Devine Avenue, Hualapai Mountain Road, Airway Avenue and particularly the residential area along Diamond Street, which commuters use to zig-zag through the neighborhood to and from Eastern via Kenwood Avenue to enter and exit Airway Avenue.

"People are telling me in the afternoon it is really a mess over there," Mayor Les Byram said of Airway Avenue and N. Diamond Street. The city has spent $18,927 on four traffic studies to record peak hours of congestion for roads seeing the aftermath of the underpass and Louise Avenue changes, according to Public Works Director Jack Kramer.

The city also is in the early stages of negotiation with property owners east of the underpass to acquire land that could be used to build a main street off Airway and combat the traffic increase on Diamond.

On the drawing board so far, city officials have a temporary fix, projected at approximately $100,000, and a long-term fix that could take up to three years. Kramer said the temporary solution, being propelled by studies from the Southwest Traffic Engineering group, would make Diamond Street and Yavapai Drive each one-way bypasses to and from Airway Avenue. Diamond would serve as an exit from and Yavapai an entrance onto Airway, he said.

Yavapai contains no houses on the block that would be used by northbound drivers from Eastern Avenue seeking to enter Airway.

As for the Diamond neighborhood, this change would likely cut traffic by half in the area, Kramer said. "That would be a fix until we acquire property past Airway," he said.

Residents living on Diamond who have been angered by the recent surge of traffic will probably prefer the long-term solution, which would, depending on the outcome of the traffic study, include the installation of a traffic signal at Airway and Lomalai Street. Lomalai is the road west of Diamond that ends at Kenwood Avenue. If the plan goes through and the city applies for bonds to help pay for what is currently estimated as a $3.2 million project, then Lomalai would be paved across Kenwood. It would run parallel to Diamond and open onto Airway. The feasibility study for this Airway Avenue-Lomalai Street traffic analysis cost $3,247.

For now, the city has hired SWTE to conduct another three studies on areas of concern following traffic changes that have occurred since late September.

Other studies

The Hualapai Mountain Road/Andy Devine intersection is another area seeing an influx of traffic since the Louise closure. SWTE is tracking the increase in through-traffic volume and will issue a report detailing the tasks associated with possible traffic signal timing changes that would best fit the recent trends. The report will include data the company is gathering during morning and evening peak hours. This study costs $3,939.

Because of recent residential growth south and east of Eastern, the city has considered reducing the speed limit on Hualapai Mountain Road, currently set at 45 mph, where vehicles enter and exit the city. This would be accompanied by additional driveways and side road intersections, according to the scope of work reports. This study is costing the city $4,951.

Lastly, SWTE is observing Hualapai Mountain Road and its intersections with Railroad, Harrison and Jackson streets. Concerns regarding increased congestion at these intersections has made the scope of this project an analysis of what tasks are associated with performing a traffic signal evaluation based on the current data of the vehicles passing through these areas. This study costs $6,790.

Kramer is expecting the reports from SWTE by early February, he said. City Council will then be briefed on the company's findings and recommendations.