The City of Sierra Vista is beginning work on a long envisioned project--creating a downtown environment!
With approval of City Council, staff is working to redesign a section of West Fry Boulevard and North Garden Avenue using a "complete streets" approach that builds a road that meets the needs of motorized vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians alike. A complete street also incorporates public-friendly amenities (like benches, gathering areas, and lighting) that will enhance the business district.
The project is part of the City Council-approved West Fry Boulevard/North Garden Avenue Improvement Project, which moves forward the redevelopment vision for a town center--a top desire of local residents that was expressed during "Dream Your City," becoming the foundation for part of the Vista 2030: General Plan.
Input from the public is a key part of this project!
Open house meetings give you an opportunity to share your thoughts in person. The City is also planning to launch an online idea-sharing tool that we look forward to announcing soon.
Open House Meetings on November 13
A big thank you goes out to the 100 local citizens who came out to learn about this project and provide input at two open houses held on Wednesday, Nov. 13, at Sierra Suites Hotel. The project design team will use this input to develop design options that will be presented for input at additional public meetings in early 2020. We also look forward to offering further online public engagement opportunities soon!
Why is revitalization of the West End important?
The 2013 “Dream your City” project, which collected public input for Vista 2030: General Plan, sent a clear message: Sierra Vista citizenry want a “downtown” that will serve as a walkable entertainment district. The Fry Boulevard Improvement Project is the first step in achieving that vision.
The objectives for the Fry Boulevard Improvement Project are:
- To stimulate economic development
- To better serve the West End population and improve pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure
- To improve safety for motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists
- To create an inviting entryway to the community
From an economic development perspective, the West End accounts for more than 50% of our retail vacancies. With abundant small retail spaces, the area is ideal for business start-ups; independent restaurants, cafes, and bars; and galleries.
The West End is Sierra Vista’s “front door,” and becomes the first impression for military personnel, executive recruits, and tourists. In its current configuration, North Garden Avenue and West Fry Boulevard make Sierra Vista look dispirited. The West End should represent Sierra Vista as a forward-moving, viable, and vibrant community.
Who is spearheading this project?
The City of Sierra Vista, working in partnership the Sierra Vista Metropolitan Planning Organization (SVMPO), is responsible for overseeing all phases of this project to ensure all requirements are met. The City has retained EPS Group, an engineering and design firm that specializes in streetscape renovation projects, and the Gordley Group, a communications firm that specializes in public communications for construction projects, to proactively engage the community and affected stakeholders in developing alternative design concepts and engineered construction plans for this project.
Who is paying for it and how much will it cost?
The project is fully funded by federal and state dollars, which have been awarded to Sierra Vista for the specific purpose of improving the West Fry Boulevard and North Garden Avenue roadways. That means that these same dollars cannot be transferred for another use like maintenance or used for another type of project. If Sierra Vista does not use these funds for this project, these dollars will be taken back by the State and awarded to another jurisdiction that is ready to build a new or improved roadway. The design phase of this project is expected to cost $400,000. The construction phase funding budgeted is $2.35 million. All funds for the project are transferred to the City, where it is budgeted under Streets Infrastructure.
For readers who want more information, here is how Sierra Vista got the funds. The Sierra Vista Metropolitan Planning Organization (SVMPO) receives Highway User Revenue Funds (HURF) and Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds from the State of Arizona and the Federal Highway Administration. HURF funds are generated from taxes paid by Arizonans, to include gas, fuel, motor carrier, and vehicle license taxes, as well as vehicle registration fees. Some of these collected HURF taxes are redistributed directly to municipalities and counties, based on population. Some of the taxes go the State of Arizona for the Arizona State highway system. And some of these collected taxes are dedicated to improving the regional transportation system; those funds are distributed to Sierra Vista through the regional planning organization (the SVMPO). The funds have already been collected. Sierra Vista coordinated with other regional agencies and jurisdictions to pool enough construction funds to fully fund this project. The SVMPO was also able to exchange STP dollars with State’s HURF funds so that Sierra Vista could have direct local jurisdiction control over the West Fry Boulevard/North Garden Avenue Improvement Project. All funding for both the design and construction is being provided through the SVMPO. The City is providing staff time and expertise as a partner and lead agency for this project. Information about the planning work of the SVMPO to develop and fund regional transportation projects can be found on their website.
What stage are we at in the process?
The project was approved by the SVMPO and approved and included in Sierra Vista’s FY20 budget by City Council. It supports the redevelopment vision expressed in the voter-approved Vista 2030: General Plan. The project is now in the design phase and, at this point, the City is seeking public input on what the street will look like when the construction project is finished. Public input will include “open house” events and online forums to facilitate discussion and idea-sharing. The input received will be used to inform the development of a design concept to be presented for public review and comment at a later meeting.
Where is the improvement area?
The improvement area is West Fry Boulevard, from North Garden Avenue to 7th Street, and parts of North Garden Avenue. The current Phase One will impact a small portion of North Garden Avenue and West Fry Boulevard from North Garden Avenue to Carmichael Avenue.
Are you considering reducing the number of vehicle lanes?
Yes. When the entire project is complete traffic lanes on Fry Boulevard from 7th Street to North Garden Avenue, and part of North Garden Avenue, will be reduced to one lane in either direction and a center turn lane. Fry Boulevard was built to handle far more traffic than what recent traffic counts show. This project is an opportunity to resize the road to “right size” it into a safer, more attractive, and usable community main street that can host events and bring vitality to neighboring businesses.
What is a complete street?
The U.S. Department of Transportation defines a “complete street” as a street that is designed and operated to enable the safe use and support of mobility for all users regardless of age or ability. In other words, a complete street is a street for everyone. It is designed to enable safe access for all users—pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and public transit riders of all ages and abilities. A complete street supports multiple transportation modes and makes it easy and pleasant to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to destinations within the district.
Will reducing the vehicle travel lanes and/or speed limit make my commute slower?
The initial construction Phase One will affect only about one-third of a mile. One of the aspects of this project is to examine the potential to replace the existing traffic signals with stop signs on the side streets, which are primarily responsible for causing traffic delays. Slowing vehicles down by design, rather than a posted speed limit, will create safer conditions for all users. Once design alternatives are developed, the engineering consultant will analyze the specific changes to traffic speed using modeling software. Our aim is to enable efficient vehicle travel with safe conditions for all roadway users.
Will this aid in public safety?
Yes. Reducing the rate of speed also reduces the severity and quantity of vehicle accidents, including vehicle-pedestrian accidents. Studies show that halving the speed in a 40 miles per hour zone has an inverse effect on pedestrian safety. At 40 MPH, 9 of 10 pedestrians stuck by vehicles die. At 20 MPH, the reverse is true: just 1 in 10 die.
It is a tragic fact that in today’s world that we also need to take into consideration the potential for a motorist to plow into a crowded area. The reconfiguration will make events, like parades and festivals, safer for participants and spectators.
How will this impact Fort Huachuca?
We anticipate that there will be no impact on Fort Huachuca. In its current configuration, West Fry offers two lanes onto Post, and one lane exiting Post onto West Fry. That won’t change.
As Sierra Vista’s “front door,” the West End will make a better first impression of the community on visiting military dignitaries, soldiers, and their families. Also, a pedestrian-centric commercial district should attract more activity by those stationed on Fort Huachuca, many of whom do not have vehicles.
Will traffic volume on Fry and North Garden decrease because of this?
During construction, there may be a decrease in vehicle traffic. To help alleviate impact to businesses in the construction area, the City will continually put out the message that businesses are open during construction and will provide maps to alternate access routes to businesses in the impacted area.
After construction, we anticipate an increase in pedestrian and bicycle traffic due to the addition of pedestrian amenities. Many communities across the nation have experienced a positive impact on businesses after complete streets projects were implemented.
Do you have another question? Ask us!