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Road Runner: Emissions testing continues to help limit pandemic's impact, officials say
Road Runner

Road Runner: Emissions testing continues to help limit pandemic's impact, officials say

From the May's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: Cases rise, judge rules that state can keep nursing home data from public series

Employees at the state’s emissions testing stations are following new procedures to curtal the spread of the coronavirus, including not entering vehicles and following social-distancing protocols while interacting with motorists.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected transportation operations across Arizona, but it won’t stop vehicles from needing emissions tests, officials said.

Maintaining scheduled emissions testing for about 100,000 vehicles in the state each month prevents making effects of the pandemic worse, said the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

“While we are temporarily enjoying reduced emissions due to lower traffic, our estimates show that waiving testing for just 30 days would increase some pollutants by up to 17 percent,” the department said.

Particulate matter pollution can exacerbate respiratory-related illnesses. Officials have identified vehicles as a primary source of ozone, a toxic pollutant, and particulate matter in Tucson and Phoenix, areas where emissions testing is required.

Technicians are protecting themselves and the public by wearing masks and sanitizing their gloved hands after every test.

When an emissions test is conducted, some of the changes include:

  • Maintaining social-distancing protocols when possible.
  • Customers wait in booths that are regularly sanitized, or outside the station rather than wait inside their vehicles.
  • Engineers conduct the onboard diagnostic without getting into the vehicle. Customers turn the ignition key to show the “Check Engine” light is not on while workers observe from a distance.

Environmental quality officials also cite two studies, including one from Harvard University, which concludes “long-term exposure to bad air quality is an important contributor to COVID-19 deaths,” officials said.

Drivers 65 years old or older can get a yearlong delay, but it will cost $9.50. These can be obtained through May.

Vehicle less than five years old are generally exempt from inspections, the department said.

Motorists worried about expiring licenses and obtaining REAL ID, which will be necessary during travel, currently have a reprieve from completing those tasks.

Many services, like renewing a vehicle’s registration, can be completed online.

In-person services at the state’s Motor Vehicle Division offices have been limited to appointments due to the coronavirus.

Visit azmvdnow.gov to use the online services.

Sun Tran rolls out bus-tracking tool

Tucson bus riders will be able to plan their trips more accurately with Sun Tran’s new real-time bus locator, officials said.

The site features all service routes with the real-time locations of buses.

Paul Durham, Tucson’s Ward 3 council member, said the new tool has been repeatedly requested by Sun Tran riders.

“Once we are past the COVID-19 emergency and social distancing has come to an end, I hope you are able to find this tool useful,” Durham said.

Sun Tran, Sun Link and Sun Van fares have been waived at least until May 15, the planned date to end Arizona’s state-home restrictions.

To use the online tool, visit tripplan.suntran.com

Take transportation-planning survey

Tucson transportation officials are reminding the public to provide input to shape transportation and mobility infrastructure over the next 20 years.

The Tucson Department of Transportation and Mobility is conducting a survey on the transportation system through June and has launched an interactive map where the public can identify specific locations for potentially new ideas or current challenges they’re facing.

Users can add markers or routes on the map as well as “Like” or “Dislike” other ideas and provide feedback.

The survey can be completed on a computer, mobile device or tablet.

“It has the potential to change how we think about transportation. How we’ve done things in the past doesn’t have to be how we do them in the future,” the department said.

Go to movetucson.org to take the survey.

Down the Road

Pima County bridge needs monthlong repair: The Silverbelll Road bridge, which was struck by a delivery vehicle on April 30, is currently undergoing a month-long repair.

On Friday, crews began to repair structural damage to the single-lane bridge, closing it to all traffic.

Motorists should expect the closure of the Silverbell Road bridge between Cocio and Aguirre roads until the work is completed.

Overnight closures for I-10 near Red Rock, Picacho Peak: Motorists traveling in both directions of Interstate 10 near Red Rock and Picacho Peak should expect overnight closures this week.

  • On Monday, eastbound I-10 will be reduced to one lane. The on-ramp from Red Rock to eastbound I-10 will be closed. Motorists will be directed to the frontage road to access I-10.
  • On Tuesday, eastbound I-10 will be reduced to two lanes.
  • On Wednesday, westbound I-10 will be reduced to one lane. The on-ramp from Red Rock to westbound I-10 will be closed. Motorists will be directed to the frontage road to access I-10.
  • On Thursday, westbound I-10 will be reduced to two lanes.

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or sdavis@tucson.com

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1

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