Things not okay with Ok St. in Bisbee

Bisbee Councilwoman Leslie Johns, Mayor David Smith and Councilman Bill Higgins decided against turning OK Street into a one-way street during Tuesday’s council meeting.

BISBEE — OK Street, a winding, 100–plus–year–old road with blind curves above Brewery Gulch, is a challenge for two-way traffic in Bisbee, especially when people park along it.

During the Tuesday meeting of the mayor and council, Jesus Haro, public works director explained the situation after Police Chief Albert Echave asked him to look into making the narrow street one-way.

The purpose of the change would be to cut down on the number of calls concerning parked vehicles being dinged, and to provide safer ingress to the area by emergency services.

As people unfamiliar with the road use it, they have difficulty turning around and may bump a vehicle in the process, Echave said.

Haro pointed out some portions of the roadway do not meet basic right-of-way requirements of national code for a two–way street which calls for a minimum of nine feet in width. The street would be made one way from Naco Street to Youngblood Hill Avenue, another very steep road. To leave the area, residents and visitors coming down would use Youngblood Hill, another very steep, curving road, back down to Brewery Gulch.

He also advised parking should only be allowed in places where the road is at least 16-feet wide.

“Changing OK Street to a one–way road and restricting parking will allow for a 10–foot wide travel lane to accommodate fire trucks,” he added.

However, if there were inclement weather conditions like ice or snow, passage on Youngblood Hill Avenue would be dangerous and impossible, said Haro. In such a case two–way traffic would be allowed and signs would indicate the temporary change.

After the submission of a petition signed by 34 residents and owners of two hotels who live along OK Street who are opposed to the one–way designation, it was clear Mayor David Smith and council members Anna Cline, Joan Hansen, Leslie Johns and Bill Higgins wanted to abide by the community’s wishes.

Peter Young, who submitted the petition, suggested posting some sort of signage indicating OK Street was a neighborhood street and not really meant to handle tourist or heavy truck traffic.

Other OK Street residents did not like the idea of going down Youngblood Hill Avenue and considered it rather dangerous.

All wanted the city to reduce the speed limit from 15 miles per hour to five miles per hour, particularly going downhill, due to the blind curves.

Hansen told Haro she was intimidated by driving down Youngblood Hill Avenue and said, “It’s not a good street either.”

Johns, who represents Old Bisbee on the council, said, “I feel we’re doing something to a community rather than with the community.”

She, too, was concerned with Youngblood Hill.

Smith stated, “When you have a petition from everybody up there, we have to put on our politician hats and follow what they ask. We should think of using signage to make it safer.”

Higgins, also representing Old Bisbee, said, “As a two–way street it is mind–blowing. I thought this would be a good idea, but I’ve talked to many residents. They don’t like it.”

Higgins went on to say he appreciated all the staff time spent on the problem road, “but I have to listen to the people who live there.”

Cline pointed out there are many streets in Old Bisbee with a similar problem. “We’ve lived with these roads for over 100 years and emergency vehicles make it up there. The fire department trains for situations like this. They know what to do.”

The council agreed to meet with the residents in a possible work session and come to an agreement to make the road safer, possibly with the use of special signage which could be changed out as the need occurred.

On another OK Street matter, mayor and council approved the expenditure of $13,425 for design of a new retaining wall above 75 C OK St. which failed during the monsoon and impacted a public walkway for residents.

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