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?
Phase One of the project is primarily 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 would be taken back by the State and awarded to another jurisdiction that is ready to build a new or improved roadway. All funds for the project are transferred to the City, where it is budgeted under Streets Infrastructure.
The construction of Phase One was awarded to KE&G with a bid amount of $2,597,764. Federal and state dollars (detailed below) cover $2,396,422 and the remaining construction costs will be paid for out of the City's annual Highway User Revenue Funds. Federal and state dollars also covered the full design cost of about $418,144.
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). Sierra Vista coordinated with other regional agencies and jurisdictions to pool enough construction funds to 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. 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?
Phase One of the project is now starting construction, with work expected to begin on July 19, 2021, and continue through early 2022.
Where is the improvement area?
The total planned 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. See a map.
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, with additional right-hand turn lanes as needed. 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. See traffic simulations.
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 affects only about one-third of a mile. One of the aspects of this project is to eliminate two traffic signals, 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. 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 struck 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.
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.
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