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Road Runner: Long-range infrastructure master plan moves closer to reality
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Road runner

Road Runner: Long-range infrastructure master plan moves closer to reality

More than 4,500 people responded to surveys, there were more than 6,000 interactions on the online map and more than 1,500 project ideas submitted

Most Tucsonans want to see a balanced transportation system that meets the needs of all modes of travel, city officials say.

This sentiment was shared widely by residents in the year since the Tucson Department of Transportation and Mobility’s “Move Tucson” initiative launched an effort to create a 20-year, long-range master plan of transportation and mobility projects.

Although officials were forced to forgo in-person meetings at sites such as the Tucson Festival of Books, grocery stores and in-person neighborhood association meetings, residents were still able to lend their thoughts on the city’s infrastructure.

“Due to the pandemic, we kind of slowed things down, and we pivoted,” said Andy Bemis, the department’s senior project manager. “We developed new outreach methods that I think ended up being very effective. Rather than being in person with a map, we developed an online interactive map.”

The Downtown Links Project in Tucson will be a 4-lane road that parallels the Union Pacific Railroad and connects Barraza-Aviation Parkway at Broadway Road to Interstate 10 via St. Mary's Road. The expected completion date is early 2023. Video by: Mamta Popat / Arizona Daily Star (2020)

“We developed an online survey, we recruited a team we’re calling street ambassadors, so people who live in parts of town and are connected to communities that have more barriers to participating in a process like this: lower income people, people with disabilities, people with limited English proficiency, minority populations in Tucson.

Those ambassadors worked in their different neighborhoods to engage their peers on what the future of Tucson should look like. Department officials also reached out to all neighborhood associations in the city and presented their plan at the ones holding virtual meetings.

Paper surveys were issued where needed, and an independent company was hired to provide phone bank services, calling residents in every zip code and capturing the thoughts from a range of demographics within the city, according to Bemis.

The results: More than 4,500 people responded to surveys, there were more than 6,000 interactions on the online map, and more than 1,500 project ideas were submitted.

The initiative highlighted that 68% of respondents want improved safety of roadway crossings for people walking or biking; 61% want to see safety improved for all roadway users; and more than 50% would approve of repaving streets, making sidewalks more accessible to those using wheelchairs, improving traffic signals and building safer and more connected bikeways.

However, when asked how they would spend their limited money on projects, most distributed the highest amount to prioritize roadway maintenance with public transportation in second and biking third.

The department also identified the current state of infrastructure throughout the past year. From the analysis it found that 58% of roads are in very poor condition and more than half of local roads are in the same shape.

Also, more than 170 lane miles of road can be repurposed for other modes of travel, the department said.

“We see that, you know, 64% of people drive to meet most of their transportation needs now, but in the future, they say they’d like to drive less. Whereas people are saying they would like to use public transit and walking or biking more than they do today,” Bemis said.

Now the department is moving into its next phase by showing the results and asking for further input on the direction of the project.

Using respondents’ input, the department drafted guiding principles to use when prioritizing future projects. This may change based on Tucsonans’ input.

The draft guiding principles would lead the department to address using projects that keep the city’s authentic character, connectability, optimization, safety, equitability and resiliency.

“We’ve been identifying projects to address all those things. Obviously, that project list is going to include a lot more projects than we’re going to have the ability to fund,” Bemis said. “It’ll be really important to prioritize those, and we want to make sure that we prioritize them rooted in the vision statement and guiding principles of the plan.”

Down the Road

Delays expected at Kolb, Snyder roads: Motorists should expect delays as crews remove signal poles at the North Kolb Road and East Snyder Road intersection from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17.

The current four-way stop will remain in place, and law enforcement will direct traffic through the intersection.

Overnight closures at Houghton Road, I-10: Motorists should expect overnight road closures and delays along eastbound Interstate 10 near South Houghton Road on Tuesday, Feb. 16, and Wednesday, Feb. 17.

From 9:30 p.m. and 5:30 a.m., eastbound will be reduced to one lane. Westbound traffic will not be affected.

On Thursday, the eastbound exit ramps will shift to a new location.

Reduced access to Sunrise, Skyline intersection: Construction at the East Skyline Drive and East Sunrise Drive intersection will cut off access for some motorists from Monday, Feb. 15, through Feb. 26.

From 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. there will be no left turns at Sunrise for motorists westbound on Skyline; no left turn at Skyline for motorists eastbound on Sunrise; and no right turn at Skyline for motorists westbound on Sunrise.

A look back at Tucson-area streets:

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1

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