A resident of an Arizona neighborhood is speaking out against a recently constructed roundabout that is wreaking havoc with the tractor trailers that frequent the area.
The neighborhood sits approximately 10 miles northwest of Flagstaff, Arizona just off of Interstate 40, and in close proximity to a truck stop. Recently, Coconino County constructed a roundabout in this area in an attempt to ease congestion as traffic exits I-40, but local resident Celeste Batchelor says that the roundabout is causing issues for truckers and those that live in the nearby neighborhood.
Batchelor says that the truck traffic combined with the roundabout leaves people living in the community trapped in their neighborhood. She says that, between the trucks pulling in and out of the truck stops, and the trucks that get caught up in the confusing roundabout, she frequently has issues entering and exiting her neighborhood.
“It’s a big serious concern to go to work, get your kids from school, go to the doctor,” resident Batchelor said, reiterating that the roundabout is the only way in and out of her neighborhood.
“In America, you kind of expect to be able to leave our home when we want to and come home when we want to. That’s not always the case here because of that roundabout,” she continued to ABC 15.
“I’ve been stranded with jack-knifed trucks blocking the road for a long period of time. Truckers who are making their way to and from the nearby Pilot Gas Station are obviously turned around. If I didn’t know the traffic flow… it would be hard to know where to go. I see their confusion.”
Despite her understanding, Batchelor says that anytime a truck gets stuck, it’s just a waiting game to see when she will be able to leave her neighborhood.
“We understand those frustrations and those safety issues,” said Christopher Tressler, an engineer with the Coconino County Public Works Department who says the roundabout has only been in place for about six months.
“Early on, it was identified that it would be good if we could have a second interchange or a second access to I-40,” Tressler said. “It’s right on the threshold – the size of the community and the population. The average daily traffic doesn’t seem to quite justify the expenditure for ADOT to build a new interchange, but we’re hoping with potential infrastructure dollars that are being released from the federal government that that might create some opportunities for the county to partner with ADOT and the community… to revisit that.”
Tressler says that there is an emergency access plan for the community and that first responders are able to access the community via forest roads is necessary, but this plan will do nothing to help those living in the area.
“We need another safe entrance and exit to our neighborhood that does not involve a roundabout,” Batchelor said.
When asked, ADOT made the following statement about plans for improving traffic flow:
“While we are aware Bellemont-area residents have expressed the desire for more transportation options in a growing community, it is important to note that local jurisdictions like cities and counties, not ADOT, are responsible for land use planning and local zoning decisions that may lead to cumulative impacts on transportation and other surrounding infrastructure.
There was never a plan to build a second interchange in the Bellemont area. Rather, ADOT did a study in coordination with Coconino County in 2013 exploring the possibility of relocating the Bellemont interchange 800 feet to the east of its current location. This relocation did not move forward due to lack of funding and other challenges. At this time, there are no plans or funding to move forward with this effort.
Additionally, since I-40 is considered a rural interstate highway, traffic interchanges must be a minimum of two miles apart with a preferred four-mile spacing for optimal operation of the highway based on state roadway design guidelines. A new interchange two miles east of the current one would cost around $30 million and would require Coconino County and other local jurisdictions to fund the construction of new roads and infrastructure both north and south of I-40 to connect the new interchange with the community.
In 2020, ADOT rehabilitated the bridges spanning I-40 at the Bellemont traffic interchange. This work included new steel girders and new concrete bridge decks.
We stand ready to support Coconino County as the local agency responsible for land use and roadways in the Bellemont area as their support and leadership would be critical for any funding that becomes available to help improve transportation options for local residents.”