Our thoughts on the Broadway Boulevard Project

For two years now, the Broadway Citizen’s Task Force has been meeting regularly to come up with a recommended alignment for  the Broadway Boulevard Improvement Project planned between Euclid and Country Club.  Since this an RTA project generally approved by voters in 2006, there has been a lot of contention about what exactly is required and what the definition of “improvement” really is.  Many different concepts have been proposed; everything from keeping it at 4 lanes while enhancing the streetscape to expanding to 8 lanes which would require significant demolition of existing building along that stretch.

Throughout the two year process the question of “functionality” of the roadway has been paramount to the discussion. What does improved “fucntionality” mean and how is it measured? Is it just for drivers of automobiles, or, as more and more communities are beginning to understand, do roads work to carry people from Point A to Point B in a variety of modes, some more efficient than others? (Check out this great photo of the carrying capacity of roads by mode from Germany, if you haven’t seen it already.)

Here’s our thoughts on roadway expansion projects in general, especially relevant to this project:

  1. Fiscal responsibility.  Every bit of additional roadway that we build now, we’ll have to pay to maintain indefinitely.  In light of the fact that our city and region don’t have enough money to maintain the roadways we already have, we find it fiscally irresponsible to add anything new.
  2. Complete streets. Every time. We’re past the point of having to argue that people on foot, on bike, and using transit matter too.  Cities all over the U.S. have proven that there are ways to design roads and streets to accommodate all user and that
  3. Enhancing other modes is a traffic mitigation strategy.  For every person that’s able to comfortably and safely walk, bike, or ride transit instead of driving a car, that’s one less car creating congestion and traffic on the roadway.  Simple as that.
  4. Adding vehicle travel lanes does not relieve congestion.  Numerous recent studies have revealed that building additional lanes does not necessarily alleviate congestion.  In fact, most of the studied concluded that – without additional interventions – more lanes beget more traffic; as quickly as lanes were built, they filled up.  Just building additional lanes does not improve travel times or mitigate traffic congestion.
  5. The time is right. National trends point to the need for walkable, bikable urban environments.  Both Baby Boomers and Millenials was to live in places that make it easy to live, work, and play without having to be car-dependent.  Roadway redesigns/improvements are a great opportunity to provide all residents in our region with increased transportation options, including expanded transit.

For more information on the Broadway Boulevard Project, visit the City of Tucson’s official project page, and/or visit Sustainable Tucson’s website to get links to Broadway Coalition recommendations, RTA documents, editorials, etc.

One Response to Our thoughts on the Broadway Boulevard Project

  1. John Falkenstine says:

    I had a look at the proposed drawings. There is no provision of any kind for a more up to date version of public transportation such as a center area for streetcars in either the 6 lane or 4 lane version. I am not a member of the citizen’s task force and would hope that this was discussed. Just for food for thought look at this link for line 17 in Munich Germany which starts north of Downtown, enters the downtown area/shopping district and then exits over the Isar River bluff on a steep uphill grade, and finally finishes up on the South side of town. What is noticeable is that not all of the areas are reserved for the streetcar due to the layout and age of some of the streets, and that at the beginning of the video, traffic alongside the streetcar has NO provisions for bicycle traffic. Once the streetcar enters an older congested area when crossing over the river, (look for the bridge), traffic becomes badly comingled, so its far from perfect, but still better than what we have right now. Munich has had a major streetcar system since the beginning of the 20th century, so in many areas, the provisions for the streetcar were built in. While I think that the current broadway project is an improvement over what is now existing, I don’t think it makes a sufficient “jump” to a newer better way to handle traffic.