The Sedona City Council directed staff Tuesday, May 25, to study what it would mean for the city to take over ownership of State Route 89A in West Sedona from the Arizona Department of Transportation.
If the city owns the road, it could install other safety measures instead of roadway lighting.
City representatives met May 18 with ADOT officials to discuss the future of the lighting plan for State Route 89A.
City Manager Tim Ernster said it seemed ADOT was receptive to the city in the morning to put the lights “in a box” while looking at other alternatives. However, things changed after lunch.
In a May 24 letter from ADOT Director John Halikowski to Mayor Rob Adams, Ernster said ADOT stated it does not support the option of retaining ownership of State Route 89A and implementing improvements in lieu of lighting, as doing so is not a viable solution for the state.
He said if ADOT and the city are unable to come to an agreement on a route transfer, the construction project for the streetlights will go out to bid in August.
Ernster said a lot changed in the afternoon session and added he was confused with the about-face and the August deadline date.
Ernster said the city’s options are continue to urge ADOT to meet with them to look at alternatives, negotiate with ADOT for a route transfer, do nothing and let the lights be installed, or take legal action.
Councilwoman Barbara Litrell said she was a little disappointed because Halikowski seemed receptive during the morning session to having more discussions before installing the lights.
She said ADOT has never given the city any proof or details on why lights are the only and best solution.
“There is still a lot of discussion that has to take place,” Litrell said.
Adams said he has had discussions with Gov. Jan Brewer and Halikowski about the lights, and he added it appeared the governor opposed the lights and he hoped she would be able to change ADOT’s mind.
He said what he hoped for obviously did not occur.
Adams said the city needs to become educated on what a route transfer would mean, and it may or may not be an option to consider.
“People do not want continuous roadway lighting,” he said. “I think ADOT would like to get rid of the highway.”
Councilman Dennis Rayner wanted to know how long it would take for city staff to come up with the information for council to review, and was informed by Ernster the research could be completed by August. The city manager said the preference is for city staff to do the study rather than hiring a consultant.
“We should be able to buy more time,” Rayner said.
Councilman Mark DiNunzio said the letter Halikowski sent does not differ from what ADOT has said before, and therefore, he is not too hopeful more discussion would be helpful.
Councilman Dan McIlroy said for the short term the city needs to talk with ADOT about extending the August deadline. He added in the long term the city needs to take over the road.
Litrell said she is in favor of looking at a turn back. A turn back would be if ADOT turned over State Route 89A to the city. She added the city needs to put pressure on ADOT to look at alternatives.
Rayner said the city needs to go back to the community to get its input with the public and make residents understand they would be footing the bill for a turn back.
Vice Mayor Cliff Hamilton said the city should tell Brewer the letter it received from ADOT was not what council expected.
City staff will look at other communities who have taken over highways from ADOT and liability issues to come up with an analysis for Sedona.
Council also passed a resolution by a 6-1 vote to show its opposition to continuous roadway lighting along State Route 89A and support for ADOT to enter into good faith discussions with the city to come up with a comprehensive plan that is consistent with Sedona’s community values.
DiNunzio was the lone dissenting vote.