The Skinny

The Broadway widening controversy continues

Broadway Show

City Council approves a wider Broadway Boulevard between downtown and Country Club Road, but big questions remain

A rowdy crowd of east-of-downtown residents packed the Tucson City Council meeting last Thursday, Oct. 6, as the City Council considered the future of Broadway Boulevard between Euclid and Country Club.

The residents were hoping to slow down plans to widen the central corridor to six lanes because they fear the wider street will disrupt the charm of their neighborhoods.

But the Council ultimately voted 5-2 (with council members Steve Kozachik and Karin Uhlich objecting) to move forward with a plan to expand Broadway to six lanes, partially to meet a deadline to apply for design funding from the Regional Transportation Authority. Much of the funding for the $71 million project is coming from the RTA's half-cent sales tax and Pima County transportation bonds.

The plan originally called for Broadway to be widened to eight lanes, including two lanes dedicated to transit. But Kozachik objected, saying the number of cars using the street didn't justify an eight-lane road.

For more than two years, a citizens task force has been working on a plan for the future of Broadway, which is now two lanes in each direction between downtown and Country Club Road, where it widens out to three lanes in each direction.

Ultimately, most of the task force members voted for a six-lane Broadway that would include better sidewalks, bike lanes and one lane dedicated to transit.

The dedicated transit lanes leave a lot of questions for the council. Will those lanes one day accommodate an extension of downtown's modern streetcar? Will they just serve buses? And will they be dedicated from the start, which could cause heartburn among drivers who are stuck in rush-hour traffic and see an empty lane right beside them?

As the Council discussed the issue on Thursday, Kozachik remained concerned about the proposed alignment, as represented by a map that showed most of the widening would be on the north side of the road—and as a result, many of the building along the north side would be knocked down.

Part of the reason for that: The city has been planning to widen Broadway for about 25 years, so it has already acquired quite a bit of property on the north side of the road.

But Kozachik wants to see a design that allows the roadway to weave back and forth so that fewer potential business locations are knocked down.

Kozachik said the proposed alignment "doesn't speak to historic preservation, it doesn't speak to economic vitality, and it doesn't speak to keeping the road alternate-mode friendly."

While they voted to move forward with six lanes in order to get design dollars from the RTA, council members said they would continue to refine the final plan.

"We will continue to work on it," Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said after the vote.

Kozachik wants to see the City Council revisit the plan at its Oct. 21 meeting to clarify that the task force should have more input.

"I want the task force's voice to be heard more clearly," Kozachik said.

High Marks

Dem candidate for state schools chief wins more crossover support

The race for state superintendent of public instruction is often one that voters overlook, but this year, it's getting a lot of attention.

One reason for that: The Republican candidate, Diane Douglas, has little experience in education and pulled off an upset victory against incumbent John Huppenthal in the GOP primary because she campaigned hard against the Common Core learning standards, which are hated by the Republican base.

Since winning the primary, though, Douglas had been ducking debates and the press, hoping that the Republican Party's voter-registration advantage would put her over the top.

But Douglas' tea-party roots have many Republicans jumping over to support Democrat David Garcia, a longtime educator who has extensive experience in the Arizona Department of Education.

This week, Garcia added a new endorsement: Former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, who came in second in the six-way GOP primary for governor.

"From his professional credentials to his work experience to his personal background, David Garcia is extremely qualified to lead Arizona schools," Smith said in a prepared statement. "He is thoughtful and measured and is willing to work with anyone, regardless of where they come from or what party label they have."

Garcia had previously won the support of former Republican superintendents Lisa Graham Keegan and Jaime Molera. When Smith made his endorsement on Monday, Oct. 13, he was joined by Republican businessmen John Graham, Scott Rehorn and Jim Zaharis, as well as Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce policy chair Bettina Nava.

"The collective presence of those here today proves that striving for quality public education should be a nonpartisan issue," Garcia said in a press release. "We must focus on the person rather than the party, and the person running for Superintendent of Public Instruction should be the one most qualified to lead our public schools forward."

Made in the Shade

Why not plant a tree with the mayor of Tucson?

A bit of good news: Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild set out to plant 10,000 trees in Tucson after he took office—and he's already hit that goal. So he's starting out with the next 10,000.

Rothschild will be on hand for some tree planting and bench dedication at Rincon High School this Friday, Oct. 17, as the Class of '64 celebrates its 50th reunion by adding a few new trees on the Rincon campus, as well as a couple of purple benches emblazoned with "Rangers 64."

The Lorax would be proud.

And We're Back

"Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel" debuts this Sunday on KGUN-9

If you've missed the rough-and-tumble of "AZ Illustrated Politics," the TV show I hosted for a few years on PBS 6, be sure to tune in this Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. for my new weekly television project: "Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel." We'll run down the most exciting races on the November ballot with former state lawmaker Jonathan Paton and Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Don Jorgensen. I can't say enough thanks to the many people who are helping make the program possible.