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Why don't we have a Crosstown Expressway? Money and Tucson's personality are factors

Posted at 10:27 PM, Feb 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-20 13:58:41-05

So, wow was your trip home from work?

Did you spend a lot of it staring at taillights in stop and go traffic?

A lot of Tucson drivers ask why they can't be breezing along on a smooth crosstown freeway.

KGUN9 found the answer is a matter of money and Tucson's unique personality.

We call it rush hour, but the fact is, no one's able to rush anywhere when getting to work or getting home puts a surge of cars on the road.

Phoenix has a system of freeways to help handle the traffic.  Tucson has I-10 and that's it. So why doesn't Tucson have a crosstown freeway?

Jane Hammond's been driving in Tucson for 56 years she says, "I think it's vitally important.  I think the traffic here shows how congested we are.  It would give some leeway on the freeway, and everything would be great."

Motorcyclist Terry Stage says he'd like to see a crosstown expressway for a faster, smoother ride across town but it must not be just a big slab of pavement.  It should blend in with Tucson.

"It's got to work with the city; because Tucson is beautiful. I love it here."

Environmental concerns were a lot of the reason voters said no to a freeway plan 35 years ago.

They voted to reject a high-speed loop around the region in 1986 and 1990.

Since 2006 the Regional Transportation Authority has been working to help traffic flow across Tucson and Pima County.

RTA says a crosstown freeway might cost three billion dollars; and because land costs have gone up over the years, just buying the land for a freeway would clean out the RTA budget.

Pima County Supervisor Steve Christy says, "there was a very strong contention that we didn't want to be like another Phoenix or LA..."

Before voters chose him as a Pima County Supervisor, Steve Christy was on the RTA board and the state transportation board.

He says, “If you do a loop or an expressway or something of the magnitude of the 202, 303, 404, 505 or whatever they have in Phoenix, if you did something like that in Tucson it would really be disruptive to the point where I think the community would not be in favor of it and rebel against something like that; even though it's really something we need in our metro region."

Even though he's like to see a new high-speed road, Christy agrees that higher land costs put a new freeway out of reach.

Without a crosstown, the Regional Transportation Authority and other jurisdictions have worked to move more traffic down the roads by making major roads more major--widening places like Broadway and Houghton, widening other spots on Broadway and widening major east-west streets like Grant.

\And there are plans to improve how the fast-moving Aviation Highway connects to I-10 to help drivers connect to that freeway.