Doubletree Ranch Road reconstruction project met with resident concern

A conceptual board of Doubletree Ranch Road reconstruction (Graphic by Town of Paradise Valley)

A number of Paradise Valley residents gathered at Town Hall Wednesday, Sept. 12 to express concerns, consternation and confusion surrounding a proposed project set to redefine Doubletree Ranch Road.

Town of Paradise Valley officials hosted the community meeting to answer questions and speak to residents about a proposed capital improvement project for Doubletree Ranch Road, from Invergordon Drive to Scottsdale Road. The proposed project has an estimated cost of $3.3 million.

Of the approximately 50 residents who attended the meeting, only two vocalized some sort of support for the project.

One by one and row by row, the members of the audience voiced their concerns, questions and proposed solutions to the project up for vote in November.

Resident issues with the reconstruction plans included replacing a four-way stop with a roundabout, and utilizing millions of dollars to replace a street that has at least seven years left in its lifespan. Ultimately, safety amongst motorists, pedestrians and cyclists was brought up numerous times as discussions of bike-lane width, motorist-lane width and roundabout workings ensued.

Plans presented also show creating a “meandering” sidewalk in an effort to calm traffic, Community Development Director Jeremy Knapp said at the community meeting.

The Doubletree Ranch Road project is a part of the town’s Capital Improvement Plan, which outlines the municipality’s plan for achieving the goals and objectives desired by the mayor and Town Council. Generally, the CIP is a running five-year list which is prioritized by Town Council during their budget discussions.

The Doubletree Ranch Road project aims to conform to General Plan guidelines, calm traffic and beautify the area to match the western portion of the road, Mr. Knapp says.

Town officials decide the cost threshold and types of projects to include in the CIP, the Paradise Valley website states. Projects with a cost greater than $100,000, with a useful life of at least two years are considered candidates for the CIP.

The Town Council is set to vote on a contract for the Doubletree Ranch Road reconstruction at a November meeting, Mr. Knapp says. Town staff has been authorized to design the project thus far, but the town’s elected officials have the final vote on the matter.

The history of reconstruction

Paradise Valley Town Council had a discussion on their CIP list in April, Independent records show. At the time, topics of discussion included undergrounding of power lines, road improvements related to the new Ritz-Carlton resort and a sewer system assessment.

The 2018-23 CIP has 47 projects totaling $35 million of town funds. The 2018-19 fiscal year funding is $15.2 million, documents show.

Proposed projects for this CIP, in addition to the Doubletree Ranch Road project, included:

  • Remodeling Town Hall, the police station and public works department;
  • Sewer system assessments;
  • Bicycle/pedestrian improvements; and
  • Lincoln Drive sidewalks.

The goal for Doubletree Ranch Road is to match the General Plan cross-section for a minor arterial, and including meandering alignments, medians, bike lanes, sidewalks and landscaping.

The proposed roundabout stems from a General Plan recommendation to have a roundabout on minor arterials, Mr. Knapp said.

Jeremy Knapp

Mr. Knapp says the town is not requiring any additional right-of-way to achieve these improvements. Since the April community meeting, proposed resident comments have altered the plan.

“We had requests for us to shrink the overall width of the road in order to lessen the impact on the adjacent property owners,” Mr. Knapp said.

“We were able to do that by two things: one, we took 6 inches out of the bike lane in either direction, and 2 feet out of the median in order to cut a foot and a half out of basically each side of the curb while still meeting the width of the bike lane.”

Additionally, the construction timeline has been pushed to lessen the impact on the local school.

“We’re proposing to start the project after the holidays, in January, and be done by the end of summer so essentially we’d only effect one semester of school,” he said.

The main road reconstruction is set to have a 6-foot sidewalk, 6-foot bike lane, 12-foot vehicle lane and a 12-foot median with matching lanes on the opposite side.

“We’re not eliminating access, we’re not blocking off any streets along this road,” Mr. Knapp said, noting the traffic calming efforts are to address driver speed, not driver flow.

“It’s not necessarily the flow, as it is the speed. We did do a speed study on two different occasions on this stretch of road. The excessive speeding was 15 percent of drivers who drive through there.”

Mr. Knapp defined excessive speeding as 11 MPH over the posted speed. Several residents in the room voiced support for added photo radar, rather than reconstructing the road.

Many residents in attendance asked about the origin of this project. From initial reviews of documents provided online, the Doubletree Ranch Road project appears to have first been prioritized to be funded as a CIP project in 2013-14. At the time, it was earmarked to receive its first funding in FY 2016-17.

“Going through all the records I can find, it appears it was first added to the CIP in 2012,” Mr. Knapp said in an email to the Independent, following the meeting.

“In 2012-13 we implemented a new CIP ranking system so the 2013-14 list would have been the first time it would’ve shown up prioritized by that new ranking system.”

The pavement on Doubletree Ranch Road is from 2010, Mr. Knapp said.

“It’s at least got seven more years of life in the asphalt depending on the treatments the town could do,” he said.

Paradise Valley Town Hall is at 6401 E. Lincoln Drive. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Resident input

Paradise Valley resident G. Bernard Barry, a certified public accountant sitting in the front row of the room, was one of the first few residents to voice disdain for the project. Mr. Barry exceeded the three-minute speaker allotment as residents donated their time to allow him to continue naming issues he found with the project.

“You started off by saying, and inferring, that the street on east Doubletree would look similar to the street on west Doubletree — huge difference,” Mr. Barry started off saying.

“Most of the meanders I’ll say from Invergordon to the wash, is like two feet. You can drive from Invergordon to the wash and not turn your steering wheel one fraction of an inch because the road is wide enough. Here we’re going to have 6-foot curbs on each side, so when you drive down the street you’ll be turning, I think, 18 feet when you go from the north side to the south side — not two feet.”

Mr. Barry says the General Plan doesn’t touch on the meandering design on roads.

“The General Plan recommendations, as you say, about possibly including traffic circles, about other things, should be considered when a street is reconstructed or a new street is going to be built,” Mr. Barry said.

“Naturally, it doesn’t say if you don’t like the looks of the current street, go out and spend whatever you need to spend so it looks better in the eyes of the employees of the town; not the eyes of the people who live on the street.”

Mr. Barry says he is fine with the speed he sees cars drive down his street.

“If you’re 11 over the speed limit, you’re not going 25 MPH over — I am comfortable with the speed,” he said.

“They may drive 45 (MPH), and that’s OK, but most of the time there’s so much traffic on the street they can’t drive fast.”

Paradise Valley mother, Erin Sweitzer described the roundabout ideas.

“I think the roundabout is kind of a disastrous idea,” Ms. Sweitzer said. “That four way stop, especially in the mornings when people are trying to get to school and work, people do not pay attention. They can barely pay attention to come to a stop and look around to see who’s turn it is to go; let alone look to see who’s coming around the roundabout. They’re just going to go.”

Ms. Sweitzer also questioned who the roundabout benefits, pointing to motorists who cut through the town to or from other municipalities.

“Were residents complaining about the stop sign, or what prompted the roundabout thought?” she asked.

“What other minor arterials that are as busy as Doubletree, or busier, have roundabouts? I can’t think of any — I could be wrong.”

She also says she would be in favor of having photo radar due to the unsafe driving conditions.

“I don’t even let my kids out there, it’s crazy,” she said. “We’ve had our mailbox plowed down in to 3 million pieces, as has our neighbor next to us and our neighbor across from us — and probably some other people here — going full speed, right next to the sidewalk where someone could have been run-over.”

Ms. Sweitzer posed a question to the room, “is there anybody here who is so bothered by the four-way stop signs that they’d rather have a roundabout?”

“I literally drive down Doubletree — two kids, two different schools — at least eight times a day. It doesn’t bother me, ever, even when I have to wait a few minutes.”

In attendance at the meeting were three Town Council members, Paul Dembow, Mark Stanton and Scott Moore.

Mr. Dembow encouraged residents who were unhappy with the plan to attend the November meeting when council votes on a construction contract.

“If you’re upset, Jeremy just got this promotion — he’s a great guy, don’t shoot him,” Mr. Dembow said. “If you’re unhappy with the design, he’s just doing his job. If you have a way to improve the design I would suggest you tell him, but the people you really want to talk to are the council members that are either going to vote for this, or not.”

The proposed meeting is set for Nov. 15.

News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be reached by e-mail at mfittro@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MelissaFittro

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