Highway 180 Partnership Wins Statewide Transit Award

A group of people holding awards in front of a black background.

FLAGSTAFF, AZ (April 10, 2019) – Several northern Arizona organizations were recognized as the “Partnership of the Year” for their joint efforts to mitigate winter congestion on Highway 180 at the 2019 Arizona Transit Association (AzTA) and Arizona Department of Transportation’s (ADOT) Excellence Awards.

The award ceremony took place on Wednesday, April 10 during the AzTA / ADOT Annual Transit Conference in Mesa, AZ.

The Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority (NAIPTA) received a grant from ADOT to develop an implementation plan for the Highway 180 corridor, with a goal of taking things past the discussion phase, and into developing a roadmap for putting real solutions into action. Simultaneously, Coconino County Supervisor Art Babbott formed a U.S. 180 Citizens Task Force and a separate Agency Task Force to brainstorm and implement tangible solutions to winter congestion.

These groups, along with Arizona Snowbowl, Coconino County, City of Flagstaff, U.S. Forest Service, and ADOT worked together to gather data and make informed decisions about the potential solutions that have been discussed for decades. By mapping and generating cost estimates for the often-discussed alternate access routes to Interstate 40 and using historic cell phone data to accurately assess traffic delays in the corridor, the group determined the costs of developing alternate access would not provide enough of a benefit to be worth the investment.

Other solutions like increased transit service rose to the top in their ability to get cars off the road without building new infrastructure. Arizona Snowbowl invested in a significant increase to the annual Mountain Express bus service between downtown and the resort, and Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD) joined the partnership by providing access to the Flagstaff High School parking lot as a free park and ride. This strategy paid off, with Mountain Express seeing its highest ridership ever (165 percent increase over the previous year), and according to the Citizens Task Force, a noticeable decrease in the congestion along the corridor.