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Guest Commentary

Whitehead: Public safety is the city’s job

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The city’s foremost responsibility is public safety. Scottsdale has over 1,000-lane miles and our traffic engineers are tasked with improving traffic flow and keeping those using the roads safe.

Over the past few weeks, residents have written with concerns about road diets because the language in the Transportation Action Plan is ambiguous, there are no timelines, and the list includes major roads such as Hayden. In response to these concerns, I’ve requested a city council agenda item to review and consider changes to this section of the transportation plan.

Lane reductions are not common in Scottsdale. In the past 20 years, lane reductions on only three roads have been completed with no prior opposition and or subsequent traffic issues. The most recently completed project was unanimously approved with current Councilmembers Kathy Littlefield and I voting “yes.”

Of Scottsdale’s 1,000-mile lanes, only 30-mile lanes are considered candidates for reconfiguration. Of those, some have already been taken off the list. I believe “lane modifications” better describes these projects. The width of the road does not change.

The projects often eliminate lane mismatches and add dedicated turn bays, bus turn-outs, and pedestrian infrastructure. This can increase flow and decrease accidents. As an example, I missed a traffic light this past week because a bus had stopped in a traffic lane to pick up passengers. Many cars were backed up behind the bus including me. Bus turn-outs will keep this from happening.

The street projects listed in the plan are not approved, just candidates. A demonstrated need and community support are needed to move them forward.

Also worth noting, roads like Legend Trail Parkway are up to 10 years out. Restriping has to be done in conjunction with repaving to limit added cost. Just one of many ways Scottsdale protects your tax dollars.

Having a one-size-fits-all policy on road diets makes no sense. Each road and neighborhood are unique. As we saw with 68th Street and McDowell Mountain Ranch Road this year. The city council approved the 68th Street improvements because there was a public safety need and community support.

McDowell Mountain Ranch Road, also on the road diet list, didn’t make the cut. It is consistently 4-lanes, has sidewalks and bike lanes, and no community demand. It is being repaved without lane changes.

It is important to remember, Scottsdale also adds lanes which can create controversy. The additional lanes for Pima Road are happening now and pedestrian and bike improvements are part of the project. This change makes sense. Whereas, I helped lead the successful charge against a road widening project on pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined Mountain View Road.

In re-reviewing and possibly directing staff to make changes to the Transportation Action Plan, the city council can provide context, timelines, and make amendments that make sense for Scottsdale. Most importantly, it will be an opportunity to provide accurate information to our constituents which they always appreciate.

After understanding the city’s “road diet” objectives, one resident responded, “Thank you for this very thorough explanation. The term ‘Road Diets’ is alarming and maybe being used improperly. I am all for the safety issues you discussed below. Thank you for what you do.”