The Red Rock Acres Homeowners Association and the Borderlands Restoration Network (BRN) are raising concerns regarding the safety of a proposed intersection between Harshaw Road and South32’s Cross Creek Connector road.
In an Oct. 16 letter addressed to Santa Cruz County Manager Jesus Valdez and the County’s three supervisors, the two groups, which are landowners affected by the design of the intersection, argue that South32 is requesting significant exceptions to the County’s road engineering standards in the project’s design. (The letter is reprinted in full below.)
BRN board member Ann Gosline summarized the groups’ position during Tuesday’s “Call to the Public” period of the SCC Board of Supervisors meeting.
“We believe that the proposed design raises grave safety concerns,” Gosline said. “Many people have already provided information concerning the likelihood of serious accidents at this intersection. This would be made worse if the County granted exceptions to the County’s own approved engineering standards, particularly in light of the huge vehicles that will be using this intersection.
“We also noted in the letter that granting exceptions to the County’s own standards would put the County and individual County officials and employees at risk of exposure for liability for accidents.
“We are deeply concerned that the consideration of the proposed design may be happening too fast, without required information, and without the transparency requested. We have seen no information showing that the County has obtained an independent analysis of the traffic study provided by South32. We now are concerned the Supervisors’ executive session held on Oct. 3 concerning a possible speed limit change on Harshaw Road is part of an overly rapid evaluation of the proposed design submitted by South32.
“We wish to put on the record our request that for the protection of the public, the County ensure that an independent Road Safety Assessment is conducted before the County considers approval of the proposed design or any engineering design exceptions. There are clear standards for Road Safety Assessments and this is exactly the type of situation calling for such an Assessment. The County can request that ADOT conduct an Assessment, as ADOT has a Road Safety Assessment Program that can conduct Road Safety Assessments on County roads. In any case, we request that the County ensure that such an independent Safety Assessment is conducted.”
Text of the Oct. 16, 2023 letter
Re: Safety and liability concerns over proposed “design exceptions” for the intersection of the Cross Creek Connector and Harshaw Road; need for a full Road Safety Assessment.
Dear County Manager Valdez and County Supervisors Ruiz, Bracker and Molera,
We recently learned that CPE Consultants LLC has requested that the County approve several “Design Exceptions” for the proposed intersection of the “Cross Creek Connector” (“CCC”) and Harshaw Road, including asking the County to waive provisions of the Maricopa County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) Roadway Design Manual (RDM) standards, which Santa Cruz County has adopted. Among these requested exceptions, CPE Consultants asked the County to waive the MCDOT RDM standard that requires that roads shall intersect each other at no more than 10 degrees from normal and instead accept a road that deviates “roughly 75 degrees” from normal. This raises significant safety and liability concerns.
We ask the County to obtain a full AZDOT “Road Safety Assessment” before considering any design exceptions for the intersection of CCC and Harshaw Road. Residents have repeatedly raised safety concerns about this proposed intersection (as well as the intersection of CCC and SR 82), providing ample evidence on the record of the likelihood of serious accidents. While we believe the proposed design would be dangerous in any case, we dispute the CPE Consultant’s characterization of traffic volumes at this intersection as “extremely low.” Many residents and visitors, including large numbers of cyclists (as well as border patrol and emergency vehicles) use Harshaw Road to access the National Forest, scenic Harshaw Creek Road, and the San Rafael Valley. Mine traffic itself will of course generate multiple trucks per hour 24/7 as well traffic of mine employees and suppliers. No information has been provided that the County has obtained an independent analysis of the Kimley-Horn Traffic Impact Study CCC Access Route provided by South32. We believe that it is critical to protection of the health, safety and welfare of County residents that the County obtain a full Road Safety Assessment before considering the design of this intersection or any exceptions to the County’s adopted road engineering standards. We believe it makes sense for the County to request that AZDOT conduct such a Road Safety Assessment (a multi-disciplinary study) as AZDOT has greater resources and it is within AZDOT’s authority to conduct such studies on municipal roads. See https://azdot.gov/business/transportation-systems-management-and-
We are also concerned about liability of the County and its employees, and associated costs to taxpayers. ARS 12-820.03 provides that the County and County employees are immune from liability for traffic accidents only “if the plan or design is prepared in conformance with generally accepted engineering or design standards in effect at the time of the preparation of the plan or design” and “the public entity or public employee gives to the public a reasonably adequate warning of any unreasonably dangerous hazards which would allow the public to take suitable precautions.” Under the clear language of this statute, we believe the County and County employees would be at risk if the County approves exceptions to the County’s adopted standards, and further, that it would not be possible to provide adequate warning of a known unreasonably dangerous hazard. (ARS 12-820.03 also provides that “if a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether the public entity or public employee has met the requirements of subsection A of this section,” the issue may go to trial. This itself would be costly.)
As we obtain more information about the proposed design of this intersection we may raise additional concerns, but we wished to communicate the concerns in this letter as soon as possible.
We respectfully ask that you respond to this letter to let us know if the County will request that AZDOT conduct a Road Safety Assessment and what steps the County will take to evaluate the safety concerns associated with the proposed design and requested design exceptions. In addition we request the County obtain a 3rd party independent analysis of the Kimley-Horn traffic impact analysis.
Thank you for your attention.
Linda Shore, on behalf of Red Rock Acres Homeowners Association, affected landowners
Rodrigo Sierra-Corona, Executive Director, Borderlands Restoration Network, which is an affected landowner
Lynn Davison, Chuck Klingenstein, Ann Gosline, board members, Borderlands Restoration Network