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Our Opinion: The Grant Road challenge

Choosing the alignment must be a transparent and open process

Afternoon rush-hour traffic on Grant Road, just east of Tucson Boulevard. Widening of Grant Road to six lanes won't take place for another five years, but the planning process for the project is beginning this month.

Afternoon rush-hour traffic on Grant Road, just east of Tucson Boulevard. Widening of Grant Road to six lanes won't take place for another five years, but the planning process for the project is beginning this month.

Take all the planning that went into the current widening of Interstate 10 and add in all the disruption caused by the three-year project.

We ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

When the city starts to widen a five-mile stretch of East Grant Road, the chaos is likely to be far worse.

Unlike I-10, Grant will see businesses and residences demolished, and access will have to be maintained as the city works on one of its busiest east-west arteries.

The $166 million widening of Grant to six lanes between North Oracle and North Swan roads was the single costliest project in the Regional Transportation Plan approved by voters in May 2006.

Up to two-thirds of the total cost may be spent buying property needed for the wider street.

Although work won’t start for five years or so, it is essential that the city cast a net as wide as possible to get feedback and suggestions on how this massive project should proceed.

In that respect, the role of the 18-member Grant Road Planning Task Force will be essential. The group will begin meeting soon to help work out an alignment that will be both efficient for traffic and fair to property owners.

The work is badly needed.

During rush hours, drivers on both Grant and major cross streets often have to wait through two or three signal cycles to pass through intersections.

Pedestrians have been killed trying to cross Grant, which does not have a median. In one period in 2005, one pedestrian was killed and nine injured in the one-mile stretch from Alverno Way to Country Club Road.

The “new” Grant is being promoted as a neighborhood- and small-business-friendly corridor that will be faster for drivers and safer for pedestrians. There will be bus pullouts, sidewalks and bicycle lanes.

East Speedway Boulevard was widened a number of years ago through the University of Arizona and farther east. That is pointed to as a model for the Grant Road work – a street that works for that part of town, as well as for those passing through.

Residents living near Grant are understandably skeptical. But the rebuilt Grant can be a better neighbor for them, too.

The work of the task force, with members who live and work near Grant, will be essential.

That group has an unenviable job as it helps to determine a final alignment for Grant – in essence, whose property will be taken and whose will remain.

The owners of some business fronting Grant already are doubtful that citizen input will be considered. “The fix may be in,” one bar owner said.

We don’t think that’s the case. We hope the city and the task force members can prove to property owners that this will be an open and transparent process.

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