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Council approves realignment of 22nd St. to accommodate widening

Part of $105M street widening from Tucson Blvd. to Interstate 10

The city will buy several businesses and homes on the north side of 22nd Street between Kino Parkway and Tucson Boulevard.

The city will buy several businesses and homes on the north side of 22nd Street between Kino Parkway and Tucson Boulevard.

The City Council on Tuesday approved the alignment for the widening of a midtown stretch of 22nd Street and for the overpass to be built over 22nd where it intersects Kino Parkway.

It was a “wonderful day,” Mayor Bob Walkup said of the approval of a plan that had been in the works since 1981.

“It’s been a long time,” said Councilman Steve Leal, who has represented the area affected by the realignment since 1989.

The council’s unanimous vote gave city officials the authority to begin buying properties on both sides of 22nd Street between Kino Parkway and Tucson Boulevard that would be affected by the road’s new course, sightly north of where it now runs.

The alignment was chosen to allow traffic lanes to remain open on 22nd Street during construction and to minimize the number of properties the city would have to buy, plans state.

Transportation Director Jim Glock said Tuesday that the property acquisitions – as many as 49, according to the proposal – have been estimated to cost $3 million to $6 million.

The full project, which will widen 22nd Street from Interstate 10 to Tucson Boulevard, is expected to start in 2012 and cost $105 million, with the funds coming from the Regional Transportation Authority, Transportation Department documents show.

The council’s vote was not an approval of roadway details. The widths of bicycle lanes, traffic lanes and landscaping will be outlined in the next step of the planning process, Glock said.

Some members of the council seemed relieved. “I don’t want a highway,” Councilwoman Nina Trasoff said. She advocated relatively narrow traffic lanes to slow traffic, and bike lanes that are 6 feet wide with a 1-foot buffer zone, the standards accepted for the Grant Road widening project.

“If Grant Road deserves it, so does 22nd Street,” she said. “I would be really upset if we approved something that ends up creating a gash between the South Side and the rest of the city.”

Trasoff’s comments highlighted fears that the area was being treated differently than the comparatively more affluent North Side. It also touched on lingering resentment stemming from Interstate 10′s course through downtown.

But several members of the committee of Tucson residents who live near 22nd Street and helped to choose the alignment spoke at Tuesday’s meeting in support of the city’s planning process.

Les Pierce, who spoke on behalf of Arroyo Chico, the neighborhood north of 22nd Street most affected by the change, said the plan represented an improvement in traffic flows, bicycle and pedestrian access and interactions between neighborhoods.

Pierce said those affected by the property acquisitions thought the process was fair, and none spoke Tuesday.

Opposition had been voiced at the citizen’s advisory committee meetings, according to the minutes.

About 80,000 cars pass through the intersection of Kino Parkway and 22nd Street each day, according to Transportation Department documents. Traffic will remain open during construction, which is slated to start at the intersection in 2010.

During the study session Tuesday that preceded the regular meeting, the council discussed a recent court ruling that overturned a city ordinance requiring property owners to submit historical information to the city before demolishing older buildings around downtown.

The judge’s ruling stated that the restrictions were adopted improperly – as a building code provision rather than a zoning regulation.

The talks Tuesday were held in executive session, which is closed to the public, and council members declined to disclose how they decided to proceed

City Attorney Mike Rankin, who last week said that the city’s position was legal, would provide no further comment Tuesday.

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