Clarkdale and Cottonwood motorists can expect construction and delays on Hwy. 89A for at least the next 48 weeks.
The first phase of an Arizona Department of Transportation project to widen and improve Hwy. 89A from Cement Plant Road to Black Hills Drive in Cottonwood began on Tuesday, Feb. 4.
The work began at Cement Plant Road and will proceed south to Black Hills Drive.
When completed, Hwy. 89A will have two lanes in each direction with a center median.
Crews will begin the project by clearing brush and rock for the roundabouts, new box culvert extensions and new pavement.
Utility companies have already begun relocating utilities to make way for the new road.
The first phase of the project will consist of the construction of new box culverts used to divert water under the road to prevent erosion.
Motorists will see safety barricades and construction signs placed near the initial culvert construction on Monday, Feb. 11.
The five roundabouts will be constructed at the intersections of Hwy. 89A and Cement Plant Road, Avienda, Lincoln, Groseta Ranch and Black Hills Drive.
ADOT spokesman Bill Williams said studies have shown the roundabouts are statistically safer than four-way intersections for motorists and pedestrians and ADOT plans to build more of them in Arizona.
ADOT said roundabouts improve capacity by 30 to 50 percent, reduce injury accidents by 80 percent and reduce fatalities by 90 percent.
Williams said another advantage of the roundabouts is that they provide for safer U-turns.
Area drivers will have to get used to navigating the five roundabouts in just 2.2 miles.
“It takes some getting used to but not a lot,” Williams said. “And they’re easier to cross than a four-way intersection since pedestrians only have to look left to check traffic.”
Williams said the roundabouts for this project were designed to handle the large trucks that use the road as well as passenger vehicles and pedestrians.
The $10.2 million project was awarded to S.J. Louis Construction in Phoenix.
An 18 month project to upgrade Hwy. 260 to a four-lane road for 2.4 miles from Western Drive to Thousand Trails is slated to begin this fall.
ADOT Public Involvement Officer Bill Pederson said that project will not impact motorists nearly as much as the Hwy. 89A project since most of the construction is adjacent to existing roadway.
“These projects have been in the works for a number of years,” Pederson said. “Folks have been anticipating this for quite some time.
With the increased growth in Verde Valley traffic, we need to improve those highways to accommodate traffic.”