Intro to Broadway Project – Who, What, When, Why?
Why Are We Spending $74 Million
Destroying 30 Buildings in a Central Historic Area
Producing No Traffic Improvement?
The Broadway Improvement Project is not needed, and will provide no benefit to the residents of Tucson. The City’s own data shows that widening Broadway will provide only a 6-second improvement in travel time.
The City of Tucson wants to bulldoze dozens of buildings, many of them historically significant, to handle nonexistent traffic increases which were projected 30 years ago, but did not materialize.
The effort started in the 80s, when City analysts predicted a substantial increase in Broadway traffic by 2005. This began a decades-long push to widen Broadway, despite a consulting firm’s analysis that widening would not improve traffic flow. The reason is the delays at intersections. The City got funding for the project in 2006, as part of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) proposition.
But the traffic increase didn’t happen, for two reasons:
1. Population growth, which had been primarily to the East, went to the Northwest instead.
2. Aviation Parkway was completed in the 90s, providing an alternative for residents in Southeast Tucson.
In 2009, a consultant’s study showed that Broadway traffic was essentially unchanged since the 80s. That should have squelched the project. But the City said it was obligated to do the job, because voters approved it as part of the RTA. (Not true. The RTA proposition said a change in the plan was permitted if there was “no degradation in performance”. That 6-second difference is 1 percent, which would certainly be within the limit.)
So the City’s plans continued. The original design was for widening Broadway to 8 lanes, 150 feet wide. That’s half the length of a football field. More than 100 structures would be demolished, mostly locally-owned businesses, including nearly everything on the North side of Broadway, from Euclid to Country Club.
There was strong opposition by thousands of citizens and several neighborhood associations. This resulted in creation of a citizen’s task force, with representatives from business, neighborhood, and disabled communities. Between June 2012 and May 2015, the task force held 37 design meetings, coordinated by City staff and consultants. There were 5 Open Houses, each attended by several hundred people, and five Business and Property Owner Meetings.
In late 2014, a compromise was reached between the City, RTA, and task force, calling for 6 lanes, with an estimated 10-12 buildings to be torn down. City agencies and consultants were to work out technical details.
We have now received the revised plan. It calls for at least 30 buildings to be demolished — triple the City’s compromise estimate — including 2 blocks of houses in Rincon Heights. Many other buildings will become inaccessible, and will likely be destroyed, because their driveways and/or parking lots will be wiped out. There also are changes at intersections which impact nearby neighborhoods, by diverting or blocking traffic flow.
Will the Broadway Corridor be a gateway to our revitalized downtown, with locally-owned businesses, and human scale? Or will it be a wide swath of asphalt, straddled by empty lots and the dream of big box stores?
Tucson got a black eye with Rio Nuevo. Let’s not do it again. The money can be spent on sidewalks, landscaping, and ADA compliance, which would enhance the area. Please tell your City Council member to reject this wasteful and harmful idea, once and for all.
For more info: www.sustainabletucson.org www.facebook.com/broadwaycoalition
Thanks to Margot Garcia, for providing background and chronological information; Les Pierce, for identifying important items in City and RTA documents; and Bob Cook, for wording suggestions.