Bypassing downtown but not bypassing businesses
Reporter: Craig Smith
Web Producer: Mekita Rivas
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - If you drive through downtown Tucson, months of construction there mean you're learning patience -- or losing what patience you have.
Now there's another project attracting attention that promises to help downtown get busy, by making it less busy with traffic.
The construction's designed to help traffic bypass downtown. Usually businesses worry that'll make customers bypass them too, but this plan is designed to get traffic out of the way of pedestrians who want to walk around a vibrant downtown.
For months downtown's been a forest of frustrating barricades, making it tough to get to some businesses. Most of that's been to prepare for the street car.
The project called Downtown Links is designed to connect Aviation Parkway to I-10 so drivers have a fast way to bypass downtown.
It adds features to encourage pedestrian, bicycle and transit use downtown.
Empire Pizza is betting on the downtown revival getting stronger. David Anderson is not worried the project will help customers drive away from his pizza place.
"I don't think it'll affect us too much, maybe it might even bring us more business; might even make it easier for people to come down here from other parts of the city."
They've seen downtown evolve at Danny's Downtown Barber Shop. Robert the Barber is a little concerned about a downtown bypass.
He says, "If they whip through too quickly, they won't be able to stop in here, right?"
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked: "But they're also talking about things to encourage transit, buses, bicycles, walking. Does that help?"
Robert says, "Everything helps. I think once there's people walking, bicyclists, it's gonna be good for our business and all the other little businesses around here."
As Tucson and the RTA broke ground for work between I-10 and 6th Avenue Wednesday, Mayor Rothschild said a car friendly way to bypass downtown, makes downtown more pedestrian friendly.
"So that if it's a vehicle that really doesn't want to stop downtown, it doesn't have to clog the traffic up downtown. So it's going to give us a lot more options for what we can do with our downtown to make it attractive."
The total project should be done in a little over a year. It's actually been in the works for more than 30 years.
The Arizona Department of Transportation had planned to connect Aviation and I-10 but that plan was scrapped after complaints it would wreck neighborhoods and destroy historic buildings. Tucson, and later the RTA, developed the current plan instead.