Views on two road projects: Rethink grant road widening

2013-09-15T00:00:00Z Views on two road projects: Rethink grant road wideningBy Ruth H. Stokes Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

I have been deeply involved in urban transportation planning for over 40 years.

The $2.1 billion Regional Transportation Authority plan is the first time a project of this magnitude was funded without detailed economic, environmental and social impact studies that are required when federal gas-tax money is used.

The RTA promoters avoided these studies by not using any federal funds. There have been many financial surprises, including an estimated $300 million shortfall of anticipated tax receipt revenue. There will be many more if the Tucson City Council does not demand changes in the planning process now.

The health of our city depends on thriving inner-city neighborhoods and businesses like those along the arterials that would be widened.

Full widening of Grant and Broadway would destroy hundreds of businesses and ruin adjoining neighborhoods.

One possible solution suggests that doing just the intersections along Grant Road would be 70 percent as effective as full widening and cost much less.

But we never had a chance to vote for this alternative.

It would be difficult to officially cut any of the RTA construction projects. The voices of the growth businesses who sold this RTA plan are very powerful.

But a courageous City Council could control the order in which the individual projects are planned and built.

Begin by not implementing plans for Grant Road widening from Oracle to Swan roads. Quit trying to force one-size-fits-all overlay zoning on all of the neighborhoods along Grant. Instead focus first on the special needs of each intersection (bus pullouts, turn lanes and safe bike lanes) and then make the full widening plans conform to these.

Improving the intersections first would speed up traffic much sooner than waiting to finish this super plan that we cannot afford. Installing bus turn-outs has made a big difference.

Working closely with neighborhood residents on intersection design would greatly reduce the angry conflict between the

outer-city people who want to drive faster to and through the city and the residents of inner-city neighborhoods who do not want their living quality degraded.

Currently, neighborhood associations have to use most of their energy fighting the city to reduce the damage that full widening would cause.

If the City Council has the courage to demand upgrading the intersections first, they will need our continued support.

Ruth H. Stokes, a systems analyst, has served on various citizens’ committees including the Citizens’ Transportation Advisory Committee.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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