Moving traffic from the eastside of Downtown Tucson to surrounding destinations – U of A, Tucson Mall, Pima Community College -- has been an ongoing debate since the 1970's. In 1972, plans for the Butterfield Parkway were rejected because the El Trajito Shrine, which was in the parkway's path, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the early 1980's, Tucson's City Council directed staff to begin developing plans for the Aviation Parkway. After several routes for the Parkway were accepted and rejected, the downtown portion or 'last mile' of Aviation Parkway was approved in 1985. However, in 1986 the voters turned down a vote to raise the sales tax by 1/2 cent and fund transportation projects that included money for the downtown leg of Aviation Parkway. Shortly after the election, many neighborhood and other community leaders began opposing the elevated six-lane Aviation Parkway proposed by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT): the plan destroyed many historic buildings and cut off sections of the Downtown, such as the Warehouse District and the 4th Avenue Business District. ADOT purchased warehouses in anticipation of the project and rented space month to month during project development.
Downtown Links is the alternative to this six-lane 'last mile' of the Barraza-Aviation Parkway. The City of Tucson offered to take over the project from ADOT in 1989. Over the past 19 years, scores of alternative routes and alignments have been considered in an open public process. In addition, former elected officials have approved supporting plans that relate to the downtown area:
1993 approval of Downtown Land Use Circulation Study
1996 approval of Barraza-Aviation General Plan
2003 approval of the Rio Nuevo Master Plan
2004 approval of the Tucson Warehouse Arts District Master Plan approved
Four Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) meetings and two public meetings were held between January 1-June 30, 2008, where alignment options and issues were studied and commented upon. On June 23, 2008 the CAC voted to endorse the Curved 6th Street Alignment 3.d. to the Mayor and Council. And, on July 8th, the Mayor and Council voted 6-0 to approve Alignment 3.d. The next phase of the project is design and is expected to take 18 to 24 months.
When Pima County voters approved the comprehensive Regional Transportation Plan in May 2006, it provided a funding source of a half-cent transportation sales tax and a mandate for the City to complete the Downtown Links project, a four-lane roadway that will offer safer and more improved access by foot, bike, and transit to and around Downtown and adjacent neighborhoods.