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$900,000 coming to Tucson for bike and pedestrian project

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Posted at 1:21 PM, Feb 28, 2023

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Tuesday $900,000 in funding is headed to Tucson for a major bicycle and pedestrian bridge project over I-19.

The city of Tucson is one of 45 communities nationwide to receive grant money for the Reconnecting Communities Program.

This new program is designed to provide people easier transportation options out of and into neighborhoods infrastructure like freeways or train tracks have cut into—which may have had an isolating effect on the areas through which they were built.

The new pedestrian overpass is planned to cross I-19 at Nebraska Street, a largely residential street that runs east-west between West Irvington and Drexel Roads. According to the city's grant application, I-19's construction in the early 1960s cut off the neighborhood's easy access to the Santa Cruz River, schools and medical services.

The area, according to advocates of the project, has also become a "food desert," an area characterized by limited access to healthy and affordable food.

Though not an inherent characteristic of food deserts, these areas tend to be associated with socioeconomic characteristics such as lower income levels, reliance on public transportation and other alternate modes of transit, and a higher non-white population—all demographic characteristics of the area that will be served by the new Nebraska Street bridge.

“The Atravesando Comunidades grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation will reconnect our south side communities to services and economic opportunity,” said Tucson Mayor Regina Romero. "Projects like these are helping us address historical disinvestment. Today we are celebrating our efforts to bring more federal dollars home to Tucson.”

The project will take place within Rep. Raúl Grijalva's district. He says the city "has created and invested in inclusive and sustainable transportation and infrastructure solutions" under the mayor's leadership.

“I’m proud to support this project and advocate for federal funding that will advance racial equity and support underserved communities like those in southern Tucson,” said Grijalva.

The grant money will be used to plan and design the new overpass. It will also be used toward pre-construction tasks along the nearby Airport Wash Greenway, southwest of where the overpass will be constructed.

"Transportation should connect, not divide, people and communities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “We are proud to announce the first grantees of our Reconnecting Communities Program, which will unite neighborhoods, ensure the future is better than the past, and provide Americans with better access to jobs, health care, groceries and other essentials.”

The Reconnecting Communities Program is a component of the Biden Administration's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Investments for this first round of grants awarded will total $185 million.

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Anne Simmons is the digital executive producer for KGUN 9. Anne got her start in television while still a student at the University of Arizona. Before joining KGUN, she managed multiple public access television stations in the Bay Area and has worked as a video producer in the non-profit sector. Share your story ideas and important issues with Anne by emailing anne.simmons@kgun9.com or by connecting on Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn.