Pamela Powers, a progressive voice for Arizona
Back in 2006, Pima County voters approved the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) and a 20-year plan to improve or create roads, bridges, bike paths, bus pullouts, and more. Hundreds of projects have been completed in the past eight years, but one project– widening Broadway Blvd between Euclid and Country Club– has been stalled for two years.
The RTA plan calls for spending $71 million to buy property, destroy 100 buildings (some historic), and widen Broadway to eight lanes (150 feet). The crux of the problem is that the RTA project was based upon 1987 growth projects for Tucson, and Tucson didn’t grow that way. In April 2012, Councilman Steve Kozachik called on the RTA and Pima County to rethink the scope and hosted a well-attended community forum.
The Broadway Coalition– a hard-working group of citizens– has been meeting, planning, and gathering input since Koz’s forum. The widening has become a political hot potato. Some in the government say that the eight-lane original plan must be followed– even though the 1987 growth projections don’t jive with reality. Others says that Broadway should be four lanes or six lanes or 100 feet wide, and that eight lanes are not necessary. Preservationists are fighting for historically important architecture that is slated for demolition– most notably Broadway Village, designed by Josais Joesler, Tucson’s most influential architect. Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry has threatened to pull the funds if Tucson doesn’t “fully implement” the RTA plan (in stark contrast to the 2012 quote in this story.)
Fast forward another important public forum on Thursday June 12, 2014.
Below are three great background pieces but first my opinion. (After all, this is my blog.) I think the idea of widening Broadway to eight lanes to fulfill a 27-year-old projection that didn’t come true is absurd— even if you don’t take into account the $71 million price tag and the destruction of important historic buildings and displacement of a long-established church and dozens of small businesses. (Is that business friendly? I think not.)
Sustainable Tucson’s proposal (below) to widen Broadway to 100 ft to accommodate multiple types of transportation– including walking and cycling, not just vehicle traffic– looks interesting and has the backing of the Broadway Coalition and the Tucson Progressive. Why do we need to widen Broadway when the Aviation Parkway turn-off to the east side is just a stone’s throw from Euclid (the proposed start of the widening project. Currently the right lane merges after Eucild, going eastbound). I used to live just east of Euclid and 9th St., I currently live in midtown, I go downtown often, ande my son lives on the east side. Consequently, I drive on Broadway all the time. I have never seen a back-up of traffic since the Aviation Parkway and the bridge over the railroad tracks on Euclid were constructed. The other reason that we don’t need a freeway on Broadway is that the RTA will soon start widening Grant Rd., which unlike Broadway doesn’t have much to lose architecture-wise. (Yes, beaucoup bucks will be spent, and dozens of businesses will be destroyed on Grant, but neighbors aren’t fighting.) With the Grant Rd. widening and Aviation Parkway, why does Broadway also need to be widened to eight lanes?
If you have an opinion about a sustainable future for Tucson, come to this meeting! Calendar item here and more information below from the Broadway Coalition, Sustainable Tucson, and the Bud Riders Union. Check out Tweets of photos of historic buildings to be lost at the bottom of this page and @p2hannley. Let’s save what is unique about Tucson. Our history is more important that a fast lane to the suburbs and more strip malls, fast food joints, and gas stations.
Here is a great editorial on the project by Robert Cook, co-founder of Sustainable Tucson…
Time to Lobby the RTA and Pima County on the Broadway Blvd Redesign Project
This is a response to the Guest Opinion published in the Sunday Arizona Daily Star June 8th. While I was the author supporting the vision of the Broadway Coalition and the Citizens Task Force, the piece represents the work of hundreds of committed professionals and activists in this community who are at the forefront of bringing forth solid analyses as well as forward-looking ideas about what is to be done.
We want to expand the community’s conversation about such complex issues — since that may be the only hope for making better decisions and taking more effective actions. The fundamental economic truism we must face is simple: To do what is needed for our prosperity, we have to stop public expenditures on what is not needed. And we do not build what we can not maintain.
As I wrote in the Star piece, the design outcome of the City of Tucson’s Broadway Boulevard, Euclid to Country Club Project is going to say a lot about whether we will become a more resilient and vibrant region. There is so much good research out there to show why the community stakeholders’ vision is the direction we should go. For example, a recent study in Omaha, shows that transit incentive programs increase demand for transit and are less costly than providing parking. We have not even begun to talk about this research and its implications for better solutions here in Tucson.
We have heard from Douglas Mance and other proponents of the view that every specification in the 2006 RTA Plan must be rigidly followed to maintain credibility with the voters. That is nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Investing precious public funds in unnecessary infrastructure raises greater questions about public accountability. While I personally believe the RTA is one of the best performing local public agencies in managing and delivering projects, in this case insisting on a rigid interpretation of the 2006 RTA Plan can only damage its reputation. Excellence in public works also requires creativity, good design, and responsiveness to quality of life issues and the economic realities of the community.
The proponents of the rigid RTA interpretation also tell us that the community’s preferences for the Broadway redesign would reduce “functionality of mobility,” a key goal of the Plan. Again, the opposite is true. As a “smart growth” strategy, transit-oriented development doesn’t diminish, but actually increases “functionality of mobility.” The recent transformation along the Street Car route is dramatic evidence that even when no roads are widened, mobility functionality as well as economic vitality can increase significantly. The UA is planning to serve 20,000 additional students in the next decades with thousands more staff and faculty as well. The Street Car will play a critical role in their mobility.
While the many benefits of the community-supported design are clear, the remaining question is who will pay for the consequences of an unsustainable, out-of-scale roadway if we end up rigidly following the ballot language specifying a 150ft-wide, 8-lane design? I think the answer is clear — it’s us, our children, our grandchildren and the generations to come.
Contrary to official rhetoric, the RTA and County can remove the obstacles to what is best for the region. So please, join us and help make this project one we won’t regret, a project which will make Broadway Blvd, Euclid to Country Club, a Tucson Centro destination that the whole region can enjoy and benefit by.
This is an important opportunity for the sustainability community to come out in force and request that local government do the right thing. As Ruth Beeker of the neighborhood movement said, “This is Tucson’s last chance to get it right!”
Submitted by Robert Cook a 50-year resident of Pima County and Co-Founder of Sustainable Tucson, is a two-term member of the RTA Citizens’ Accountability for Regional Transportation Committee, Past-chair of the Tucson-Pima County Metropolitan Energy Commission, and current member of the Pima County Planning & Zoning Commission. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Sustainable Tucson…
Broadway Redesign: Lobby for
100 feet max width
June 11, 2014
Dear Climate concerned neighbors and friends,
The City’s Climate Change Committee is recommending deep cuts in future CO2 emissions. Unfortunately, very little attention is being paid to significantly reducing Transportation’s big part of the problem. Walking, biking, taking the bus and high capacity transit are key to a more resilient community.
This Broadway Blvd RTA Project is THE OPPORTUNITY to say NO to excessive widening of roads and destruction of our historic places. The big benefit of “Transit-Oriented Development” is it encourages a much more climate-friendly way of life. But we will never afford the solar-electric high capacity transit systems to make TOD possible if we waste our precious funds and financing options on excessive paving of more land! FORTUNATELY NOW, we have a:
Possibility of a Broadway redesign solution that pleases everybody !
A 100-foot maximum width would accommodate everyones’ mobility !
RTA, County back off rigid requirements but still threaten to defund Project !
Please Lobby Now for 100 feet maximum width !
Attend the Thursday, June 12th Broadway Blvd. Project Public Meeting at the Sabbar Shrine Hall, 450 S. Tucson Blvd, 5-8pm.
Contact Pima County Supervisors and RTA Board members. (See email addresses below)
We now have a way to break the gridlock on the Broadway Blvd Euclid to Country Club Project redesign process. A 100-foot maximum width can accommodate all the mobility elements that everybody wants and at a significant savings compared to the 150-foot, 8-lane roadway specified in the 2006 RTA Plan. This would relieve the County and RTA a major embarrassment if they choose to deny the community the most sensible choice to date by defunding the Project.
Growing transit ridership, rising tax revenues from increased destination business activity, and the savings from the 100-foot width could pay for the high-capacity system.
This is the best opportunity we have to converge on a solution that we won’t have to regret.
Too much of the attention and debate during the Project’s two-year design process has been about number of lanes. The most important decision is WIDTH because excessive width costs and destroys. A width adequate to contain all the desired mobility and functionality but which defines the “Goldilocks” optimum and maximum is what everybody should be thinking about and supporting.
But width is not enough. We can’t have the benefits of transit oriented development without having ALL of the facilities for walking, biking, taking the bus AND high capacity transit. Therefore we have to lobby for both WIDTH and supplying the transit facilities. Please join us and make your views known to elected officials. Many Thanks from everyone supporting the 100-foot Maximum width.
Become part of the solution and say YES to the 100-Foot Max WIDTH Solution.
To Learn More:
Go to the 100-Foot Max WIDTH Resource Page( http://www.sustainabletucson.org/2014/06/100-foot-max-width-resource-page/ ) for links to Broadway Coalition recommendations, RTA documents, editorials, and lobbying letters to public officials.
County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry: Chuck.Huckelberry@pima.gov
Executive Director Farhad Moghimi: email@example.com
Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothchild: firstname.lastname@example.org, Jonathan.Rothschild@tucsonaz.gov,email@example.com
Pima County Representative, Ramon Valadez: Ramon.Valadez@pima.gov
Sahuarita Mayor Duane Blumberg, firstname.lastname@example.org
Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Marana Mayor Ed Honea: email@example.com
Pascua Yaqui Representative Catalina.Alvarez: Catalina.Alvarez@pascuayaqui-nsn.gov
From the Broadway Coalition…
We urge you to set aside time on the evening of June 12th to attend what may be the most important public meeting in this project. At this meeting the Citizen’s Task Force (CTF0 will be asking for public comment on the two or three draft designs for the Broadway Boulevard roadway project between Euclid and Country Club. It is essential that you come and join us in expressing your views about these plans.
Below are the criteria that we have stated, from the beginning, that will produce a roadway that Tucson can be proud of:
1. Advance the notion of place (quite different from the notion of corridor), including affording residents in the area a range of services and amenities, establish a unique identity, etc.
2. Preserve the structures that exist along Broadway and provide safe, easy access to them;
3. Enhance the business climate/viability;
4. Promote use of alternative modes of transportation and give particular attention to pedestrian and bicycle activity and safety;
5. Be visually appealing;
6. Aid the movement of a people using a variety of forms of vehicular traffic;
7. Contribute to environmental sustainability, and
8. Be a fiscally sound, affordable approach.
PLEASE ATTEND THE RTA CTF OPEN HOUSE ON:
JUNE 12TH, 5-8 PM
SABBAR SHRINE HALL
450 S. TUCSON BOULEVARD
Consider this to be your investment in improving the city you call home. See the link below for more details.
Here, below, FYI, is a letter we sent to the Broadway Project Citizens’ Task Force.
May 29, 2014
Dear Broadway Project Citizens’ Task Force,
Thank you for your many hours of work on our behalf. In the final 4-5 months of the planning for the RTA’s Broadway Corridor Project, it appears that you are very close to coming to what everybody could consider as a win-win situation. We see that as follows: a design that has been tailored to significantly improve the way in which people are able to move to the Broadway corridor as a destination, as well as move through it as a corridor, but a corridor in the heart of a thriving metropolitan area.
The block-by-block analysis of the layout will give you an opportunity to explore in detail the implications of the proposed changes. You have already expressed a strong desire to do as little damage to existing business and historical structures as possible, while remaking the roadway to be more efficient in moving people by as many means as possible.
Broadway Project staff and Transportation Director Cole have mentioned that a 6 lane, 96 foot right-of-way is possible. Actually, it is not hard at all to conceive of a proper 6 lane road in a right-of-way as narrow as 88 feet (the minimum right-of-way within the project currently is ~84 feet): 4 car lanes at ten feet, plus 2 twelve foot transit lanes, plus 2 five foot bicycle lanes, plus 2 four foot sidewalks plus 2 three foot separators. Of course, the roadway is already wider than that in most parts of the study area. As you can see, the above estimate was obtained without any attempt at using all the tools available for designing smart roadways. A creative design team can use its expertise to find ways to make the throughput per minute larger without destroying the sense of place in the process. This is such a wonderful opportunity for the city of Tucson to shine.
We believe you share our goal of a thriving, livable Tucson. We have a vision of how the Broadway Project will contribute to that goal. We envision an attractive two mile stretch of road that has been tailored to be a mix of flourishing businesses, from the Sunshine Mile to Broadway Village, and historic properties that have been enhanced through reinvestment because the situation has been stabilized, supported by city-owned parks, parking structures or parking lots (utilizing in part vacant City-owned property). We see a road that periodically has wider right-of-way to accommodate turn lanes, and synchronized traffic control lights helping to make automobile throughput more efficient for those wishing they could stay but needing to move on. We see pedestrians being able to get across the street in well-marked, well-lit attractive cross walks. And we see the large copper plaque on an elegant pedestal honoring the City of Tucson for best design and creative enhancement of an existing destination while improving the functionality of the major arterial at its midst.
We ask you to challenge the Design team to give you plans that push the limits of minimizing the right-of-way footprint of the roadway and to incorporate elements that to reinforce a sense of a living community, while improving throughput for those who need to move through. We believe this can be done if we are clever and determined. Be not deterred by the easiest layouts; insist on creating a roadway we can all be proud of. Focusing only on moving automobiles rapidly at the cost of creating a bleak landscape should not, in our view, be an option, in part because the traffic data do not support that, but mostly because it makes Tucson a much less desirable place to live.
We applaud your efforts to date, and urge you to insist on a creative solution that is truly a win for Tucson.
For the Broadway Coalition
The Citizen Task Force (CTF) for the Broadway improvement project (from Euclid to Country Club) met Thursday evening, May 22. Thank you to all the people who came to listen to Daryl Cole, COT Department of Transportation Director. He talked at length about the problem of selling a narrower roadway to the funding agencies, meaning Pima County and the RTA Board and worked hard to convince the CTF that 6 lanes was the only viable option. His vision for the roadway is one that meets functionality for the 95% of the traffic, meaning motor vehicles, and said that improving pedestrian and bicycle safety was a given. He repeatedly stated his professional judgment that the road has to be six lanes wide, and suggested that a hybrid of the 6 lane and 4 lane +2T would be two lanes that cars would use during the commute peak of the morning and evening, and the rest of the day, when transit use is heavy, would be exclusive for transit. What kind of transit is up in the air. People are dreaming about light rail or a modern streetcar, but realistically, it will probably start with buses.
Follow up Meeting on June 12
A public meeting was set for Thursday, June 12 from 5 to 8 at the Sabbar Shrine Hall at 450 S. Tucson Blvd. The format will be an open house with people able to move among the 6 stations. Station number 5 will be the critical one with maps with the different alignments so which buildings will be impacted by which widths will be visible. The design team was encouraged to have many sets of maps so people could crowd around them and really see the details.
We will be sending out more information about the public meeting as we get closer. We need everyone to come, once again, and express your opinion about how the roadway should be designed and the consequential impact on our neighborhoods and the city at large.
If you have any questions, or would like to learn more about what is happening, don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have written materials we can send, or answer individual questions.
Margot Garcia for The Broadway Coalition
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