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Road Runner: Tucson's "Slow Streets" pilot program aims to provide relief to residents
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Road Runner

Road Runner: Tucson's "Slow Streets" pilot program aims to provide relief to residents

The Tucson Department of Transportation and Mobility says it is aiming to support residents’ well-being during the coronavirus pandemic through a new pilot program for neighborhood streets.

Through the Slow Streets initiative, roads are reconfigured to temporarily limit them to local traffic using barricades, cones and signs to make way for all people to safely spend time outdoors while social distancing.

The department is using the materials in hopes of encouraging drivers to use alternate routes, use caution when driving in the area and to only use designated “slow streets” when necessary to reach a final destination, the department said.

Access for residents, emergency vehicles, environmental services and delivery vehicles are not blocked. The designated streets will not be placed in transit areas or commercial areas.

Between May and June, the department deployed its low-cost materials to the Feldman’s, Barrio Sin Nombre, and Fairgrounds neighborhoods on two-week rotations.

“Working with the neighborhoods we identified low-cost traffic improvements that will now be implemented based on what we learned from the slow streets installation,” said Gabriela Barillas-Longoria, the department’s livability planner. “The pilot phase was really successful. We received positive feedback and interest from the community.”

More than 50 applications had been sent in as of last week to be a part of Phase 2 of the initiative.

The department is looking to complete a minimum of 12 to 15 more street segments by December.

“These (barriers) will be up a little longer, which is good because we know that behavior change takes some time,” she said, noting materials will appear in the neighborhoods for three to four weeks.

Three neighborhoods have been selected: Old Pascua, Miracle Manor and an unnamed area without an association near East 42nd Street and South Prudence.

One of the program’s goals is to prioritize underserved communities hit the hardest by pandemic.

Once a neighborhood is found, the department will find a neighborhood representative to engage residents within the community.

“What we’re doing is recruiting block leaders at each of the slow street locations — once we know where those are — to inform their neighbors and get feedback on the program. They’re going to also help inform the future street improvements,” said Barillas-Longoria, who created the position.

The leaders will receive a stipend as well as a shirt, lawn signs and flyers while assisting with planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the neighborhood project.

Each position is funded through a grant from PeopleForBikes, a national nonprofit bicycling advocacy organization.

In the future, the department hopes to create neighborhood gathering spaces — once it’s safe to do so — and connect them to bike boulevards, which provide a low-stress biking network by using calmer residential streets as alternatives to major thoroughfares.

Barillas-Longoria said after the trial periods, “It’s going to be followed up with constructing temporary, low-cost traffic calming improvements, like traffic circles, chicanes, those kinds of things.”

“It’s going to be whatever the neighborhood wants. It’s really a unique project because oftentimes transportation projects can take years, but beginning to end, it’s going to be about two months per location. They’ll see some really quick improvements,” she said.

Down the Road

Lane restrictions for I-10 near Ruthrauff this week: Motorists on Interstate 10 and the westbound frontage road near Ruthrauff Road in Tucson should expect overnight lane restrictions this week due to underground work.

The following restrictions are planned each night from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.:

  • From Monday to Wednesday, both directions of I-10 will be reduced to a single lane in each direction between Prince and Sunset roads.
  • On Thursday, the westbound frontage road will be reduced to a single lane between Ruthrauff and Sunset roads.

Drivers should use caution and watch for construction personnel and equipment.

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or sdavis@tucson.com. On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1

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