The people again have spoken – again with a resounding “No!” – regarding a proposed bypass route for Interstate 10.
The vast majority of the some 100 people (including officials from three federal agencies) who turned out for last week’s state Transportation Board meeting vociferously opposed a bypass that would cut through an established wildlife corridor west of Tucson.
One of the speakers, Saguaro National Park Superintendent Sarah Craighead, said a bypass “could have grave consequences” for the west unit of the park, blocking animal migration, spreading invasive species and increasing light pollution.
Her objections echoed what opponents long have said about freeway bypasses: They hurt the environment, bring unwanted development and stress water resources.
We wish the state Transportation Board would listen. So far, it hasn’t, choosing to go ahead and study the proposal some more.
Yes, I-10 traffic only will get worse – in four years, 200,000 vehicles a day are predicted to make the trek between Tucson and Phoenix.
But addressing the issue simply by pouring another strip of concrete to allow carbon-monoxide-spewing vehicles to chug through pristine wilderness seems to be an old-fashioned, piecemeal approach. That the strip comes with at least a $6 billion price tag and no funding source makes it even more suspect.
Gov.-to-be Jan Brewer and the Arizona Legislature need to take on the transportation problem in a comprehensive, creative manner that includes a funding mechanism.
Something along the lines of the failed TIME initiative, which would have raised state sales taxes to produce $40 billion over the next 20 years to address Arizona’s transportation ills, would be a good place to start.
The state board’s decision isn’t the only bit of distressing transportation news to hit Tucson lately.
The city’s streetcar project, a key feature of the 2006 Regional Transportation Plan, will receive just one-third of the funding it expected from the federal government.
The city has yet to persuade the feds that it has met requirements to justify $75 million in grants for the project, which eventually would connect the University of Arizona area to downtown.
Meanwhile, in Phoenix, a spanking-new $1.4 billion light rail system will be inaugurated Saturday. On a typical day, some 26,000 passengers will be whisked through Phoenix, Mesa and Tempe along 20 miles of track.
When it comes to transportation, Phoenix has the right idea. Southern Arizona, unfortunately, is moving in the wrong direction.