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Scott Avenue changes coming, could be one-way

Posted at 10:20 PM, May 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-03 01:29:57-04

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Scott Avenue between Pennington and Congress is slightly longer than a football field, but very narrow with narrow sidewalks. That will soon change.

Rio Nuevo is paying $750,000 for general streetscape improvement around Tucson after a settlement between them and the city. Improvements will take place in a five phase project, the first is improvements to Scott Avenue.

On Scott between Congress and Pennington, the city will widen sidewalks to add trees, lighting, bike racks, and more. Project manager, Elaine Becherer, says the project will also improve pedestrian and bicycle safety.

"Making the environment more conducive to pedestrian and bike environment downtown - that's the whole goal of this," said Steve Kozachik, ward six councilman. This project is happening in his ward.

For the past few months, the city manager's office has gathered information from the public and stakeholders about improvements. They have also talked about changing Scott Avenue along that stretch to a one-way road.

As a one-way road, traffic would travel northbound on Scott from Congress to Pennington.

The benefit of a one-way road is wider sidewalks to add more amenities. Sidewalks on a two-way road (as it is now) will not be as wide, but Becherer says they will still be wider than they currently are.

"Any type of improvements are wonderful," said Margo Susco, co-owner of Hydra. Her retail shop is down the street from Scott Avenue.

Susco says a one-way road could have consequences on nearby businesses, she would rather keep it as a two-way road.

"It won't affect the flow of traffic on Congress Street, it won't affect the flow into Pennington Garage so people will be able to park," said Susco.

She says changing the route will affect the thoroughfare through the rest of downtown. Her other concern, drivers may become confused or frustrated with the change. She says one-way streets are more difficult to navigate.

Under the current proposal, the one-way street would actually be considered a one-way/two-way. The north part of the street would be two ways to allow drivers on Pennington to enter the Pennington Garage. The rest of the street would be one-way.

In a letter to Mayor and Council, the Downtown Tucson Merchants Leadership Council pledged full support of the two-way plan. The Downtown Tucson Partnership's executive committee also voted in favor of the two-way plan.

The City Manager will decide on which concept (one-way or two-way) to move forward with in mid-May. Construction will begin once the city completes the design of that concept and get permits. Merchants have asked the city to plan construction during low-volume summer months. If the city cannot finish the project by the end of this summer, they have asked the city to hold off on construction till next summer because they do not want construction to interfere with busy winter months.

There are four other phases to this improvement project as laid out in the Rio Nuevo settlement.  Phase two includes artwork and bannering on the west side of town. Phase three is improvements on Scott Avenue between Congress and Broadway, similar to improvements between Congress and Pennington. Phase four would move utilities at Arizona Avenue underground. Phase five is miscellaneous improvements like lighting and shade structures.

Becherer says they are confident the funds from Rio Nuevo will cover costs of the first three phases.