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On Tuesday afternoon, Flagstaff City Council received and discussed updates on the Lone Tree Overpass Project. Prior to this discussion, Deb Harris, NAU’s associate dean of students and president of Southside Community Association, spoke about concerns among community members regarding parties. She expressed her community’s hopes of speaking with the city of Flagstaff, NAU and the Flagstaff Police Department to resolve related issues.

Harris explained members of her community, Southside, were bothered by the party that occurred on Fontaine Street on Saturday, or Tequila Sunrise — the unofficial beginning of Homecoming events where many Flagstaff residents spend the weekend partying. She invited the councilmembers to the Southside Community Association meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Murdoch Community Center to discuss the community’s agitation. 

“Our concern is that we’re past the stage of asking,” Harris said. “Now, we’re demanding that the city does something about issues with partying, and city ordinances related to that, especially in communities like La Plaza, Southside and Sunnyside.”

According to the Flagstaff City Council Rules of Procedure, there will be no immediate discussion of issues brought up in public participation. Despite a reminder of this rule from Mayor Paul Deasy, councilmember Jim McCarthy requested Harris repeat the date, time and location of the community association meeting. Following Harris’s public participation and other routine agenda items, Christine Cameron, project manager with capital improvement, introduced design updates on the Lone Tree Overpass Project.

Cameron described the background of the project, including central goals of improving safety and reducing congestion by providing another way to cross the BNSF railway that splits Flagstaff. The presentation included projections of a traffic demand model and results of a greenhouse gas analysis.

The design manager, Jason Carloftis, presented the 2026-2040 traffic projections of the traffic demand model. The model showed, with the construction of the Lone Tree Overpass, traffic on Milton Road, Beaver Street and San Francisco Street would be reduced significantly. 

Councilmember McCarthy requested more information in future presentations to council on whether the reductions in traffic projected on Milton Road would apply to the entire road or only the portion north of Butler Avenue. 

“If you revise this again, it might be interesting to differentiate between south of Butler and north of Butler, because it could be a very different story,” McCarthy said.

Traffic from Milton Road turning right onto Butler Avenue to get to the Lone Tree Overpass could cause increased congestion at the highly trafficked intersection, McCarthy noted. Carloftis stated the traffic projections from the traffic demand model do show increased traffic on Butler Avenue heading toward the overpass. 

The project’s greenhouse gas analysis showed projected reductions, accounting for increased vehicle travel in the coming years, of nearly 1.9 million gallons of fuel and 17,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions from 2026-2040 total. The most drastic reductions will occur in 2026, with decreases of nearly 290,000 gallons of fuel and 2,600 tons of greenhouse gases. In 2040, there will be an emissions rebound — 16,500 gallons of fuel and 200 tons of greenhouse gases.

Deasy asked for clarity on whether the greenhouse gas emissions data included the emissions generated by the construction of the overpass. Carloftis confirmed the projections do not include emissions from making concrete, building the actual structures and other construction-related emissions. Councilmember Adam Shimoni brought up a conflict of the results of this greenhouse gas analysis with Flagstaff’s Carbon Neutrality Plan.

“I really struggle with this slide, for a number of reasons,” Shimoni said. “I really do appreciate the intent, in talking about the data here in regard to greenhouse gases, but our Carbon Neutrality Plan states that we will hold vehicle miles traveled steady at 2019 levels, even amidst community growth.”

Jenny Niemann, the city’s energy and climate specialist, described the intention of this project is to reduce dependency on cars. Additionally, through emphasis on creating transit options for pedestrians and bikers, it will support the Carbon Neutrality Plan. While every aspect of the project is not in alignment with the Carbon Neutrality Plan in this preliminary design phase, it’s projected impacts on the community are. 

“I think it’s really important that we all take a step back,” Niemann said. “When we adopted the Carbon Neutrality Plan, we said, ‘This is just the first step.’ There are going to be conversations about trade-offs and there are tensions, of course.”

The information gained and priorities named in this discussion will be used to advance the overpass project through the next phases of design. The project’s design team will expand on the existing plans and return to present a contract for design completion to council in November.

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