4th Avenue underpass closure tested for future traffic-fighting - WSMV Channel 4

4th Avenue underpass closure tested for future traffic-fighting measure

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Since the modern streetcar's debut in July, the City of Tucson has observed a rise in traffic congestion during peak weekend night hours in the heart of downtown's entertainment district.

For the second weekend in a row, the city will close the southbound 4th Avenue underpass at 9th Street starting Thursday night at 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. The underpass will be closed during the same hours this Friday and Saturday. Streetcars, pedestrians and bicyclists will be able to pass through.

The measure aimed to alleviate heavy traffic at the intersection during those nights, according to Department of Transportation Deputy Director Carlos de Leon.

"We started to take action immediately after this problem arose. We wanted to do testings of different traffic control measures to see what might work best," De Leon said.

De Leon said closing the underpass last weekend showed positive results in improving traffic flow through the area. The streetcar was able to pass through with no delay, while drivers made the appropriate detours to reach businesses on 4th Avenue and downtown.

Whether the underpass closure will be an ongoing measure remains to be seen. The transportation department is testing again this weekend to see if it is a viable long-term solution.

"So we'll be evaluating that. Those are all questions that come next. At this point we're testing things to see if they'll all help," De Leon said.

This round, eastbound traffic on 9th Street will be restricted to local traffic and business access only. Other drivers will be detoured from 9th street west to Stevens Avenue, north on 5th Avenue and west on 7th Street to reach 6th Avenue. Businesses on 4th Avenue and downtown will remain open during the closures.

Electronic signs will also warn drivers that the underpass is closed, giving drivers more time to make the appropriate detours.

The city had observed the traffic issues early and modified signal timing on Congress Street to allow more "green time" for west and east traffic to move faster, according to De Leon.

"That did help, but it didn't completely alleviate the problem," De Leon said.

Residents along 9th Street expressed mixed reaction to the traffic detours that flow through their neighborhood. Some said they did not mind the extra traffic but William Cleveland has lived at his 9th Street home for four years and the detours do not sit well with him.

"It was packed. You could hardly cross the street and it was 24/7," Cleveland said.

As for whether the traffic issues were foreseen among city officials, De Leon said they expected the area to be more congested, just not so much so soon.

"We knew it was congested but we thought we could work within the parameters that we have now, without taking any special measures but after the popularity of downtown and 4th avenue, it sort of attracts even more people, just to see people," De Leon said.

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