Saturday, January 24, 2009

I heart traffic interchange discussions

While I was away attending to other things on my schedule, I noticed a lengthy letter to the editor at the website. The subject is a favorite of mine and I thought that I'd examine the letter here and make a few comments as needed.

Find the letter in its entirety here.

First I want to say that I'm merely commenting on some things to perhaps add more things to the discussion. I won't be 'fisking' in harsh disagreement. I think it is better to simply have more discussion than it is to dig in and take sides until the public has been exposed to as many facts as possible.

The subject is on future infrastructure, namely traffic interchanges proposed along Interstate 40 in Kingman. The author of the letter is making it known that he sides with the future plan for the Rattlesnake Wash project and is against the other proposed project known as Kingman Crossing.

The first part of the letter details his observation of the current condition of the two possible locations of the projects. One project is in the midst of existing residential areas and the other is out where there is no development at this time for the most part.

So I'll skip ahead to the discussion of costs for each project.

Then there's the cost of the projects.

Rattlesnake Wash has a price tag to the city of $12 million. ADOT is picking up the other 70 percent of the cost. This is called Phase I and includes the interchange and arterial roadways from Louise to the airport. Phase II has a price tag of $12 million which connects Louise to Hualapai Mountain Road with no ADOT participation. So now, the city has a completed project for $24 million. But wait. I looked on the map, and with the completed Rattlesnake Wash traffic interchange and connection to Grace Neil Parkway, we have roadway that goes from Hualapai Mountain Road on the south to Stockton Hill Road on the north/west near the college. Talk about access! Wow!

I'll also add to this that Mohave County has offered up $2,000,000 to phase I of the project according to this link. I also look forward to the completion of the Grace Neil Parkway and the eventual connection to the Rattlesnake Wash project as I think it will allow for more convenience as the area develops in the future. The Rattlesnake Wash project is very important and hopefully solutions for local funding will be revealed in a timely manner to not give ADOT, which is under the budget microscope from Arizona legislators, any excuse to remove the project from their plans.

One thing that is left out though is the fact that ADOT won't even be taking bids for construction until after the next presidential election. This project is many years away from possible completion as it is structured at this moment. It would be a mighty long time before the community sees any benefit from the new infrastructure, although I remember attending an ADOT public meeting where it was said that the project could move forward sooner if it was funded by a private source... with reimbursement at a later time on ADOT's schedule.

On the other hand, Kingman Crossing would cost the city $24 million just for the interchange with no arterials. But the cost doesn't end there. Vanderbilt and Vestar said they'd front the cost of Kingman Crossing and charge the cost back to the city.

A local citizen estimated the real cost of Kingman Crossing to be closer to $50 million with the interest paid to the developers.

At best this is speculation and the public has not seen any proposals to draw any conclusions. We do not know how much risk the developers are willing to take on in any agreements, so there is nothing to chew on to make any kind of decision. We do know about other public/private partnership agreements that have been made with this developer and other municipalities or governing bodies, but we don't know what is being considered as it may apply in Kingman. Hopefully we will start to hear about the possibilities in the near future. That way an honest debate will be able to take place.

I can't find a way to take the estimate from an unnamed 'local citizen' source as anything worth considering at this time, your mileage may vary. Local citizens are free to say anything they want, I'm looking for citizens that have some information to back them up for their 'estimates'.

But here's where things are going. The hospital doesn't need Kingman Crossing traffic interchange to operate. I know this because I asked them directly.

Correct me if I'm wrong, hospitals are one sort of business where the patrons are sometimes 'dying' to get in, so to speak. While the hospital may not need an interchange for its implementation of a successful business plan, there may be more than a few 'customers' that might find the convenience of a connecting interchange from one side of town to the other rather important. I don't think it matters much even if lives aren't on the line, a person with a broken hip or arm would probably choose less time in route to an emergency room 99.99999% of the time... but that is just my guess.

The only ones who need this are V&V for their shopping mall project. It seems to me this is a cost of doing business, and the cost should be born by the developers and not the citizens of Kingman. I've heard the developer say the interchange benefits the city. I think it benefits their project.

I agree that the developers would want and probably actually need Interstate access to improve their future development. Interstate frontage without access is not worth nearly the same value as Interstate frontage with access to them and possible future tenants.

However, I do believe that the developers are right in saying the interchange would benefit the city. Currently the city is promoting a 'shop local' program as a way to ensure that they collect every sales tax dollar possible... as it is the main source of revenue the city generates. With Interstate access, the developer would likely have a greater opportunity to attract the kind of shopping interests that many in Kingman are hoping for so that many shoppers aren't faced with a choice of perhaps going out of town to spend... plus perhaps tens of thousands of more sales tax opportunities from people passing through on the Interstate.

Again, the city is doing its 'shop local' promotion now in the immediate time frame and I'll guess that they weren't looking forward in doing so with the same urgency for another six years or more (the time it will likely take to complete the Rattlesnake Wash project and develop possible commercial property that can generate sales tax dollars).

I predict that if the developers get their way and get a commitment from the city for the interchange, the property will go up for sale and the city will be making payments for a traffic interchange to nowhere.

Again, the public has yet to see any proposal drawn up between the city and the developers. From what I know about possible public/private partnerships and how they might work is... the developer FRONTS the money for the infrastructure taking on some dollar amount in risk. The city negotiates the repayment of the money out of funds generated by the commercial development.

So let's stop right there. Let's say that the developers spend millions to build the interchange, if the prediction goes as the writer says and the developer instead sells the property and no money is being generated on the property, the developer is not getting paid back. It would be a monumentally stupid business decision to make that kind of agreement on the part of the developer.

None of it matters at this point anyway as there is nothing on paper worth even debating in regards to any partnership considered.

V&V have already cancelled some of their development plans at other locations, to date, and that's understandable with the current economy the nation is facing. Rattlesnake Wash traffic interchange makes a whole lot more sense than Kingman Crossing traffic interchange. I'd rather partner with ADOT than a private entity, but that's just me.

The writer would rather partner with a government entity that may not have funds for future projects more than four years out... this is how I interpreted the comment. No matter though as both projects are different and ADOT is not even considering the use of taxpayer dollars for Kingman Crossing. Basically a moot point is being made.

I think it is easy to forget that ADOT uses Arizona taxpayer money for projects, ADOT is not some philanthropic entity just handing out huge wads of dough. It is possible that legislators, elected by taxpayers (the bulk of them NOT in Mohave County), could demand to change some plans... there are no guarantees. Public money is... well... very tight these days.

Again, I support both projects and hope they come to fruition as I feel both will benefit the local community for decades to come.

With some help from the property owners in the Rattlesnake Wash project, the cost to the city will undoubtedly be less. I know one of the owners involved said he'd pave the roadways if the city graded the way. That's got to be a savings.

Details though... what are the details??

Yes, there is a development agreement on already on record at the city complex that speaks to this. However there is another component to the existing agreement that would trigger the landowners to come up with the money for the paving. I'll venture a guess that if the economy is in the very same sorry shape it is in today (and there certainly are plenty of nay-sayers around here that speak to many years of gloom and doom ahead), and even with a completed Phase I of Rattlesnake Wash project completed many years down the road, the trigger may not be pulled to help with the Phase II part of the project (would have to be understandably cost effective for the private party of the agreement). Unless Kingman finds its growth 'legs' again, I don't see how Phase II of the overall project happens before the year 2020 (and I hope I'm VERY wrong about that).

The other owners will see an increase in their property values, so their investments will come back to them in the long run. This city has the wherewithal and talent to complete our own projects. It creates local jobs and keeps the money in Kingman.

I have to be honest and say that I'm not following this logic. Not a shot against the writer (it is probably the reader), but how is this 'our own project' when 70% of the funds and the final decision to move forward comes from a state government agency??

Another way to help finance the Rattlesnake Wash project is to take Kingman Crossing traffic interchange off the Capital Improvements Projects list.

The CIP is merely a wish list, if there is no money for any project... removing one from the wish list won't magically make funds appear for another. At this point in time these projects are not competing with each other for city funding.

The city is actively looking ways to come up with funds for Rattlesnake Wash as they have real time lines to make with ADOT (a lot sooner than those bids for construction go out in 2013). It may come down to perhaps looking for a voter supported bond measure to get those funds (purely a guess).

For Kingman Crossing, the only thing I'm aware of that the city (at the request of the developer and landowner) is examining the potential of some sort of a public/private partnership funding mechanism, the details of which probably aren't even on paper yet... not even for a first draft. There may yet be other possible solutions that ultimately do not put the risk on the local taxpayer, but NOTHING has even got close to the point to make such a determination.

I suppose this is why I follow these issues so closely. It seems that the critics of Kingman Crossing simply do not want to see the project ever happen... no matter what -- for whatever reason. Sure, they'll use some comments along the way that point to something about finance but they aren't making a determination based on any sort of fact. The facts have yet to reveal themselves. As much as I'd like to see an interchange be built at Kingman Crossing, I haven't made up my mind as whether to support a funding mechanism... ANY funding mechanism... because NONE EXIST. It is difficult to make a determination without facts, and thus far the critics of Kingman Crossing haven't presented ANY.

Think I'm crazy?? Here are some more reasons this person is against Kingman Crossing...

The voters approved Rattlesnake Wash but not Kingman Crossing.

This is incorrect, but instead of harping on this I'll offer a challenge to anyone who wants to take me up on it. When was Rattlesnake Wash approved by voters?? I know the answer I'll get will be the mention of the General Plan 2020. So those who wish to answer in this manner need to reference the page where I might find exactly where this was approved by voters via this link to the General Plan. It is true that there is no mention for funding an improvement plan on the Kingman Area Transit Study (part of the GP) for Kingman Crossing... it is also true that there isn't one for Rattlesnake Wash either. There's a huge list of projects on the implementation of the recommended plan but no mentioned of either future project. My conclusion is that the voters did not approve the Rattlesnake Wash project.

Kingman Crossing traffic interchange was slipped in six months after the General Plan 2020 was voted in, as a minor change to the General Plan. A look back on the records will show who submitted the amendment. I guess I just don't like things forced on me. When we vote, regardless of the outcome, it is the will of the people. It doesn't matter if we agree or disagree on the topic; the fact is it went through a legal process. Not that the amendment didn't go through a legal process, but it involved only a handful of city personnel and usually little to no public input or respect of the public wishes.

Not really shocked that this went to the General Plan discussion (see previous comment).

First of all, nothing is or was forced on anyone. As we saw not even a short couple of years ago, the voter can have the final say on amendments proposed to the General Plan. Short of that though for a major amendment to the General Plan there are many public meetings held for debate and input, a commission panel decision (made up of citizens), and a vote of two-thirds of the voter elected city council before any approval is granted to change the General Plan (even then it is subject to referendum).

The General Plan was approved by the voters, this is true. We shouldn't forget though that nowhere in the General Plan is there anything to do with moving forward on public funding for municipal projects. It is a plan and that is it. It is NOT authority to spend taxpayer money.

I believe if Kingman Crossing had been put on the ballot, it would have failed.

Perhaps. And perhaps it will one day make it to a ballot for consideration by the voters. Up to this very moment in time, Kingman Crossing has never been on the ballot (and neither has Rattlesnake Wash).

I feel compelled to say again that I am not taking issue with the person that wrote the letter to the editor. I fully support his premise of the benefits the eventual completion of the Rattlesnake Wash project would offer the community. I look forward to the day when it might be possible to utilize the infrastructure.

But I also see possibilities for another infrastructure project that I believe will have many of the same kinds of benefits for the community. Benefits that may be derived before the year 2013 when the Rattlesnake Wash project goes out to bid for construction (and as long as ADOT is still playing sugar daddy).

Of course it will depend on what kinds of burdens would be placed on the community to afford such an infrastructure upgrade. The city must be careful not to put itself out to too much risk, and certainly not take on every ounce of the risk that could be involved in such a high dollar commitment. Any financing plan would have to be clear and understandable with obvious community advantages before a big dummy like me would support it.

Lastly, I love this sort of discussion and hope that more and more folks will join in and help it continue. Would love to see more articles about these issues in the local media as well. Hopefully it will be more than possible to disagree -- agreeably -- if we so choose along the path of any eventual decision.

Also, there is a town-hall type of meeting on the subject of the Rattlesnake Wash project. It will be held at the library on Tuesday night at 6:00pm according to a speaker at the last city council meeting.

No comments: