The city is facing difficult choices about the historic buildings along a stretch of East Broadway scheduled for widening, an official said in describing how some properties will be saved and others demolished for the project.
In the 1600 block, plans call for buying and possibly tearing down five historic houses and two other houses — a whole block of the Rincon Heights neighborhood — for $1.3 million.
The alternative on the other side of the street was to buy four houses in the Miles Neighborhood, which are eligible for historic status, and a Circle K gas station at three times the cost.
Which historic buildings may get bulldozed for the road project is being decided , and that’s just one of the tough calls.
Although construction on Broadway between Euclid Avenue and Country Club Road isn’t coming until 2018, the Tucson City Council will vote later this month on whether to provide money to buy properties for the project, which was approved by voters in 2006 as part of the RTA plan. A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, April 5.
The choices are difficult because “why are these historic homes worth more than those historic homes?” city engineering project manager Beth Abramovitz said at a public meeting Thursday.
Some of the changes since the last round of Broadway plans was made public are:
- More north-side buildings and fewer south-side buildings would be impacted by the new path of the road.
- Double left-turn lanes for drivers turning onto Euclid Avenue.
- More bus pullouts.
- A longer southbound left-turn lane at Country Club would close a median opening that gives access to two neighborhoods.
As of Thursday afternoon, 1,115 people had signed an online petition to reject the widening plan.
City Councilman Steve Kozachik said he’s worried about funding a project that could already be millions over budget due to acquisition costs.
The project budget is $71 million. Although most of the funding from the project comes from the Regional Transportation Authority sales tax and Pima County transportation bonds, the city is on the hook for $3 million plus any cost overruns.
About $8 million already has been spent on design. Acquisitions and relocations are expected to cost $41 million, and construction is projected at $28 million.
Kozachik said the RTA and the county are forcing an expansion that’s unnecessary, unwanted and over budget.
He wants to see a plan that includes preservation, a sense of place that “makes it a destination instead of just a place you’re gonna drive past,” and transit options that neighborhoods and the public are demanding. Doing that might mean kicking the design back one step to a citizen task force.
Abramovitz is adamant the project can be built on or under budget.
While current plans call for 50 acquisitions, she thinks it will be more like 41 or less, saving millions on the budget for buying buildings.
Because of high acquisition costs, “it’s in my best interest to save as many as I can,” she said.
The number of buildings that would “absolutely have to be removed” is 27, she told the transportation subcommittee of the Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission on Thursday.
Other budget savings are being identified in pavement and drainage, plus there’s a huge contingency fund in the plans at this stage, she said.
Members of the Historical Commission subcommittee expressed interest in moving the Rincon Heights historic homes to new foundations on the same lots, which would cost about $160,000 per building, but that’s a cost not covered by the RTA.
Some said Rio Nuevo money could be used.
Rio Nuevo board chairman Fletcher McCusker said Rio Nuevo has an interest in helping merchants in the Sunshine Mile and in maintaining the sales tax revenue, because half of the merchants’ state sales tax comes back to Rio Nuevo. But the board is staying out of the alignment argument, he said, and no money is budgeted.