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Traffic Troubles 

Millville neighborhood residents and business owners fear the effects of changes at 22nd Street and Kino Parkway

Wedged between the Barraza-Aviation Parkway on the north and Kino Parkway to the east, the Millville neighborhood can be difficult to access--and area business owners fear that proposals to improve the traffic flow on 22nd Street could make things even worse.

George Kalil last week requested that a traffic-activated signal be installed at Santa Rita Avenue and 22nd Street. He wants to balance what he sees as a future loss of access to the area, which could create difficulties for his bottling firm's fleet of almost 100, 65-foot-long, trucks.

Kalil is president of the 3-year old Millville Neighborhood Association, an area comprised primarily of trucking and other businesses, though it does include some residences. Kalil also asked that a modified signal be installed at Park Avenue and either 18th or 19th streets.

Kalil made this request to a citizens' advisory committee (CAC) which is working on the design of a proposed grade-separated interchange (GSI) for Kino and 22nd. He and many of his neighbors feel this overpass structure, combined with the possible division of 22nd by a median, will reduce Millville's access even further.

"We've been 60 years in that location," CAC-member Kalil told the group. "I just want to get in and out without killing anybody."

Project consultants Jay Van Echo and Alejandro Angel agreed to look at the Park Avenue suggestion, but they quickly shot down the Santa Rita signal proposal.

The consultants gave a number of reasons for their opposition. One reason: Such a signal would be only 1,000 feet, not the required 1,320 feet, from the nearest light. They also insisted that there will be sufficient gaps in traffic on the future 22nd Street to allow trucks to turn left.

Kalil wasn't impressed. "I'm telling you," he said, "that the light is not that much of an imposition to keep our (neighborhood) safe and functional."

As alternatives, the consultants offered two other possibilities. One was for Millville traffic to access eastbound 22nd Street by making four right turns in a circuitous route out of the neighborhood. The second option was to create a 21st Street connection onto the GSI exit ramp. This, they indicated, would allow traffic to turn eastbound onto 22nd Street.

Dubious of the ramp proposal, Kalil pointed out: "The trucks won't be able to transfer to the turn lane" in the short distance available to turn left onto 22nd Street, resulting in a "difficult, crowded and dangerous" turn.

The conflict over access to Millville came up as part of the planning process for the GSI. The intersection of Kino and 22nd is one of the busiest in Tucson, with frequent rush-hour backups.

The idea of running Kino traffic over 22nd Street dates back almost three decades. At that time, a partial cloverleaf design was recommended.

In 2002, the unsuccessful city transportation sales-tax election contained $10 million for a GSI at Kino and 22nd. A few years later, Pima County agreed to provide that much money from its 1997 transportation-bond funds so the city of Tucson could build the overpass.

With those limited funds, a partial cloverleaf was again recommended (See "Congestion Suggestion," Feb. 17, 2005). But then the voters approved the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) the following year. The RTA included $105 million for improving 22nd between Interstate 10 and Tucson Boulevard. Mixing the two pots of money together means the city has $115 million to pay for three expensive propositions--the GSI; a new bridge on 22nd Street over the railroad tracks; and widening 22nd to six travel lanes from the current four.

Initially, it appeared the partial cloverleaf design would be preferable for the GSI. But a few months ago, attention turned toward a single-point urban interchange (SPUI).

This compact design brings left-turning vehicles exiting Kino onto 22nd Street to a common stoplight underneath the overpass. As an example of this concept, Jim Glock, the city's director of transportation, cites the intersection of Interstate 19 and Valencia Road.

In February, a technical advisory committee for the GSI project recommended the SPUI for approval, but the CAC was split.

Brett Dumont, another Millville business owner and a member of the committee, said of the proposal last week: "That's our livelihood there. There are too many unanswered questions."

But Claire Fellows, a resident of Millville, felt the access questions to her neighborhood had been well-addressed. Thus, at the end of a tense two-hour meeting, the CAC voted to support the SPUI proposal by a 6-4 margin.

After the concept goes to the city's Citizen Transportation Advisory Committee later this month for an expected nod of approval, it will be forwarded to the City Council. But the elected officials may not be the final decision-makers.

In 2005, the Weekly reported that Glock would recommend the council place the GSI on the ballot to conform with the provisions of the Neighborhood Protection Amendment. This law requires voters to OK all proposals for limited-access roadways.

Glock won't commit to that same step now. "We haven't crossed the election bridge yet for this particular alternative," he says.

For his part, Councilman Steve Leal, who represents area, thinks there is no question about the issue.

"(The) GSI does need to go on the ballot," Leal recommended to City Manager Mike Hein last month.

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