In 1986, the Pima Association of Governments (PAG) adopted a resolution designating Houghton Road as State Route 983, including it in a Long-Term Regional Freeway/Expressway Plan. Since that time, Tucson, Pima County and the areas surrounding Houghton Road grew and changed, creating a need to evaluate demands on the roadway and its place in the region’s overall transportation picture.
Because of Houghton Road’s state route designation, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) was tasked with conducting a corridor study of Houghton Road with the purpose of developing a long-range transportation plan that area planners, residents and jurisdictions agreed would meet future traffic needs of the roadway. The study, which began in 2002 and concluded in the fall of 2004, evaluated existing conditions along the Houghton Road Corridor from its northern boundary at Tanque Verde Road to its southern boundary at Sahuarita Road, and projected future conditions and needs for the area to its eventual maximum build-out capacity.
Recognizing the importance of public involvement in this study, a public participation plan was implemented which included seven formal public meetings, hundreds of informal group meetings, a Web site, three newsletters, and hundreds of comment forms from the public. In addition, a survey was developed and distributed for the Southeast Planning and Coordinating Committee (SPCC), in conjunction with City of Tucson Ward 4 and ADOT. Ward 4 and ADOT mailed the survey to hundreds of residents, businesses and property owners along the corridor, as well as distributed it at public meetings. It gauged public sentiment on topics pertinent to area land and transportation planning.
Informing the public of all planning efforts for their area and showing how those plans interrelate is crucial to generating informed public input. To that end, the City of Tucson presented concepts and timelines for their Houghton Area Master Plan (HAMP) and Pima Association of Governments presented a scope and schedule for the Southeast Area Arterial Study during public meetings for the Houghton Road Corridor Study.
The study team formulated and analyzed several alternatives for future improvements to the roadway, created an access control plan, and ultimately chose one recommended corridor design. After extensive public input, the team chose a final design recommendation, which it presented in a public meeting in July of 2004. The design chosen for the interim period between the present and 2030 was a four-lane, divided urban arterial, including a 40-foot landscaped median and left-turn bays. It includes a greenway with multiuse paths and sidewalks along the east side of Houghton Road north of Interstate 10, buffered sidewalks and a bike lane on the west side, and three grade-separated intersections. When the area develops to its maximum capacity, projected as sometime after 2030, the recommended design was a six-lane, divided urban parkway with 20-foot medians, turn bays, highly controlled access, and grade-separation at all major intersections.
After an extensive public outreach and input process, on May 16, 2006, Pima County voters approved the $2.1 billion Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) plan, which included improvements and lane additions to Houghton Road. Funding needed to implement RTA projects through an increase in Pima County sales taxes was also voter-approved. In the fall of 2006, the City of Tucson’s Department of Transportation initiated Design Concept studies, the first step in implementing the use of this RTA funding. Because funds are generated over a period of years, implementation of the plan will be gradual as that funding becomes available.