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Author Topic: Speedway Blvd., Tucson: 'Ugliest street in the US' (lots of old pics)  (Read 6325 times)

Kniwt

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Today's Arizona Daily Star in Tucson has a long feature on the history of Speedway Blvd., loaded with lots of old photos, including some of I-10 under construction.

https://tucson.com/news/local/street-smarts-speedways-label-as-ugliest-street-in-the-us-traces-back-to-tucsons-1962/article_1f190f1e-98c1-5b21-90ec-db3f5a6b0802.html

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Lew Davis, a Pittsburgh-born real estate developer turned political leader, had been mayor of Tucson less than 30 days when he uttered the remark that would create enduring national notoriety for the Old Pueblo.

The date was Jan. 2, 1962, the location, the City Council chamber, and the event, a pre-council meeting. The mayor was expressing to local media and others his concern about the dangerous driving habits of some Tucsonans along the city’s main business thoroughfare.

“East Speedway is the ugliest street in the U.S.,” he said.



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ztonyg

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It's actually one of the more unique urban roadways in the Southwest. I wouldn't describe it as ugly (other than the stretch between I-10 and Stone Ave). The rest of the road seems fairly well kept up.
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Max Rockatansky

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A lot of people hate all those signs and billboards but to that’s pure nostalgia.  It sure doesn’t look like that today. 
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AlexandriaVA

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1) Ugliness is a matter of opinion of course, but I agree that it's ugly.
2) In the days before GPS and Google Maps, good road signs were paramount.
3) Plus, what's the alternative? Not like there is anything scenic out that way worth protecting anyways.
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KeithE4Phx

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Tucson is what it is:  Motorist hell.

Speedway runs through some old but decent neighborhoods, but I would be shocked if it was ever rebuilt.  Same goes for every other arterial street in the city.  Seems the locals like it that way.
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ztonyg

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Tucson is what it is:  Motorist hell.

Speedway runs through some old but decent neighborhoods, but I would be shocked if it was ever rebuilt.  Same goes for every other arterial street in the city.  Seems the locals like it that way.

The locals in Tucson live in a constant fear that Tucson will become another Phoenix so they are opposed to freeways because they're afraid that they will add congestion and rapid growth, two things Tucson doesn't want.

For a city / metro area as large as Tucson, it's freeway system is awful. Yes, Albuquerque (a similar sized city / metro) only has 2 freeways as well but at least Albuquerque's cross the metro area like a "t". Tucson's 2 freeways skirt the edge of the metro area and aren't useful for most commuting patterns.
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Konza

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3) Plus, what's the alternative? Not like there is anything scenic out that way worth protecting anyways.

Even as a recent Arizonan, I feel obligated to respond to this.

Tucson is surrounded by mountains.  Like the mountains in most of southern Arizona and northern Sonora, they are "sky islands", which means they host a different ecosystem near their peaks than does the land at their base.  Plus Tucson is located in the Sonoran Desert, which means plants grow there that don't grow anywhere else on the planet.

When you get to I-10 and Speedway, take Speedway west through Tucson Mountain Park out to the Desert Museum and Saguaro National Park.  Then once again try to tell me that there is nothing scenic out here worth protecting.

Arizona is fascinating.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2020, 07:46:26 PM by Konza »
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mrsman

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Tucson is what it is:  Motorist hell.

Speedway runs through some old but decent neighborhoods, but I would be shocked if it was ever rebuilt.  Same goes for every other arterial street in the city.  Seems the locals like it that way.

The locals in Tucson live in a constant fear that Tucson will become another Phoenix so they are opposed to freeways because they're afraid that they will add congestion and rapid growth, two things Tucson doesn't want.

For a city / metro area as large as Tucson, it's freeway system is awful. Yes, Albuquerque (a similar sized city / metro) only has 2 freeways as well but at least Albuquerque's cross the metro area like a "t". Tucson's 2 freeways skirt the edge of the metro area and aren't useful for most commuting patterns.

At least the arterials that it does have are designed well to accommodate decent traffic loads.  And one of the few cities routinely allowing dual left turn lanes with permissive lefts to keep things moving.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2020, 08:54:05 PM by mrsman »
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KeithE4Phx

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Tucson is what it is:  Motorist hell.

Speedway runs through some old but decent neighborhoods, but I would be shocked if it was ever rebuilt.  Same goes for every other arterial street in the city.  Seems the locals like it that way.

The locals in Tucson live in a constant fear that Tucson will become another Phoenix so they are opposed to freeways because they're afraid that they will add congestion and rapid growth, two things Tucson doesn't want.

For a city / metro area as large as Tucson, it's freeway system is awful. Yes, Albuquerque (a similar sized city / metro) only has 2 freeways as well but at least Albuquerque's cross the metro area like a "t". Tucson's 2 freeways skirt the edge of the metro area and aren't useful for most commuting patterns.

At least the arterials that it does have are designed well to accommodate decent traffic loads.  And one of the few cities routinely allowing dual left turn lanes with permissive lefts to keep things moving.

If you like potholes.  My last trip down Speedway 2 years ago was a rough one, to say the least.
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Roadwarriors79

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Speedway is a decent arterial today, mostly 6 lanes from I-10 to the east side of town. Unlikely that the section from Stone Ave to Euclid Ave will ever be widened.

The other east-west major mile streets (Grant Rd, Broadway, 22nd St) are all planned to be widened to a continuous 6 lanes from I-10 (or the downtown area) to the east side.
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DJStephens

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Re: Speedway Blvd., Tucson: 'Ugliest street in the US' (lots of old pics)
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2020, 12:03:31 PM »

For a city / metro area as large as Tucson, it's freeway system is awful. Yes, Albuquerque (a similar sized city / metro) only has 2 freeways as well but at least Albuquerque's cross the metro area like a "t". Tucson's 2 freeways skirt the edge of the metro area and aren't useful for most commuting patterns.

   Many of the major arterials in Tucson are four to six lanes.  And built to a gridiron pattern.  Saves them to a certain degree.   Also saves Albuquerque in the NE quadrant, which is roughly 50-60 percent of the incorporated city.  Both places should have had Beltways mapped out and planned for though. 
  Tucson doesn't need a full Beltway.  Would have preserved ROW along Houghton in the E, then turning W to follow foothills all the way W to rejoin 10 on the near west side.  S of 10, on the E side would have had ROW extending from Houghton (Exit 275) in a coherent arc to meet 19 on the S side.  No need for a SW quadrant.   This would have been reasonably cheap and easy to do in the sixties, and most of the seventies.   
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DJStephens

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Re: Speedway Blvd., Tucson: 'Ugliest street in the US' (lots of old pics)
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2020, 12:09:58 PM »

Today's Arizona Daily Star in Tucson has a long feature on the history of Speedway Blvd., loaded with lots of old photos, including some of I-10 under construction.

https://tucson.com/news/local/street-smarts-speedways-label-as-ugliest-street-in-the-us-traces-back-to-tucsons-1962/article_1f190f1e-98c1-5b21-90ec-db3f5a6b0802.html

Quote
Lew Davis, a Pittsburgh-born real estate developer turned political leader, had been mayor of Tucson less than 30 days when he uttered the remark that would create enduring national notoriety for the Old Pueblo.

The date was Jan. 2, 1962, the location, the City Council chamber, and the event, a pre-council meeting. The mayor was expressing to local media and others his concern about the dangerous driving habits of some Tucsonans along the city’s main business thoroughfare.

“East Speedway is the ugliest street in the U.S.,” he said.





guessing top picture is roughly 1974-75 timeframe.  Fuel prices have already risen, above fifty cents a gallon for medium and premium.   Drink and Drown, Cheap Trix - guess that is a gentlemans' club? 
bottom picture is definitely earlier, perhaps looking at then modest downtown from the near west side?  Late fifties/early sixties.   
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DRMan

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Re: Speedway Blvd., Tucson: 'Ugliest street in the US' (lots of old pics)
« Reply #12 on: July 21, 2020, 10:26:46 AM »

Wasn't Tangerine Rd (unsigned AZ 989) meant to be the northern part of a beltway?
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KeithE4Phx

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Re: Speedway Blvd., Tucson: 'Ugliest street in the US' (lots of old pics)
« Reply #13 on: July 21, 2020, 12:27:22 PM »

Wasn't Tangerine Rd (unsigned AZ 989) meant to be the northern part of a beltway?

Yes, but given Tucson's aversion to freeways, don't bet on it.  There's also almost no chance of the other proposed freeways shown in the picture, with the possible exception of AZ 210 (Aviation Pkwy), ever getting built/completed.

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DRMan

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Re: Speedway Blvd., Tucson: 'Ugliest street in the US' (lots of old pics)
« Reply #14 on: July 22, 2020, 09:42:30 AM »

Thanks, KeithE4Phx. It's hard to imagine how different Tucson would be today had that freeway system been built out as planned.
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Bobby5280

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Re: Speedway Blvd., Tucson: 'Ugliest street in the US' (lots of old pics)
« Reply #15 on: July 23, 2020, 01:28:56 PM »

While those old photos of Speedway Blvd do show a lot of clutter (which can be greatly exaggerated by using a long focal length telephoto lens), I find some of those old signs charming, especially the ones with lots of neon. Those were all done before computer graphics applications would let any no-talent hack slap together "sign designs" in default Arial type, squeezed or stretched to fit the space.

Arizona has some of those most restrictive sign ordinances in the nation. But they don't eliminate the cheap, temporary junk signs that can pop up anywhere. Commercial buildings can still get run down and dilapidated even when entire categories of signs are banned.

Neon is rapidly disappearing from use in the sign industry. LED-based has completely replaced neon in any non-exposed situation, such as lighting inside channel letters. Even most exposed border lighting is now LED-based. The only application left for neon is where the glass tubes are deliberately visible, like in an open-faced channel letter sign. Many clients balk at the cost to buy and maintain. Locations like "The District" in Downtown Nashville have lots of elaborate neon signs, but that trendy place is an exception to the larger overall trend. Many experienced tube benders have retired. Very few young sign makers are learning the craft.
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jakeroot

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Re: Speedway Blvd., Tucson: 'Ugliest street in the US' (lots of old pics)
« Reply #16 on: July 23, 2020, 05:09:25 PM »

Tucson is what it is:  Motorist hell.

Speedway runs through some old but decent neighborhoods, but I would be shocked if it was ever rebuilt.  Same goes for every other arterial street in the city.  Seems the locals like it that way.

The locals in Tucson live in a constant fear that Tucson will become another Phoenix so they are opposed to freeways because they're afraid that they will add congestion and rapid growth, two things Tucson doesn't want.

For a city / metro area as large as Tucson, it's freeway system is awful. Yes, Albuquerque (a similar sized city / metro) only has 2 freeways as well but at least Albuquerque's cross the metro area like a "t". Tucson's 2 freeways skirt the edge of the metro area and aren't useful for most commuting patterns.

At least the arterials that it does have are designed well to accommodate decent traffic loads.  And one of the few cities routinely allowing dual left turn lanes with permissive lefts to keep things moving.

This is what I was going to pop into say. Tucson has an incredible arterial network. From my time driving in Tucson, I never felt that an additional freeway was needed anywhere. Spot improvements as needed are logical, but overall, Tucson does great work.

To locals: apart from Detroit's U-turn network, Tucson probably has the most efficient arterial network of any city in the US. Be happy they do what they do! And, all things considered, why a cross-town freeway could be a disaster for so many reasons.
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jakeroot

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Re: Speedway Blvd., Tucson: 'Ugliest street in the US' (lots of old pics)
« Reply #17 on: July 23, 2020, 05:24:15 PM »

On Speedway specifically...

Speedway is the only road in the country, from what I've seen, that has any painted "yield" lines for traffic turning left. They are seen at a few intersections north of U of A.

They are not the typical "sharks teeth" that you might otherwise see where you're supposed to yield, but the more typical block markings seen in other countries like Japan or South Africa.

For this reason alone, Speedway will always have a special place in my heart. Whoever's in charge of things down there... +1 for creativity.

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mrsman

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Re: Speedway Blvd., Tucson: 'Ugliest street in the US' (lots of old pics)
« Reply #18 on: July 23, 2020, 10:14:56 PM »

I think a lot of this can be put in the category of doing the best with what they got.  Which is a very good quality.

Tucson does not have or does not want more freeways other than the extermely basid network with I-10 and I-19 to handle long distance traffic.  Notwithstanding that, they don't just wallow in delays, they make the best of their existing arterial network to keep things moving.  Wide arterials, well timed signals, permissive left turns - what more can you ask for?  A far better driving experience than you can experience on a typical big city arterial (especially in the northeast).

The beauty of that is that practically every arterial moves well.  No need to go out of your way, your arterial is likely just as fast as the arterial 1 mile to the north and 1 mile to the south.  It means that traffic is spread out more and that minimizes congestion.

If they put in an E-W freeway in Tucson, it would be a traffic draw and quickly get congested.  For a city of its size, I think that Tucson is doing the right thing.
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JoePCool14

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Re: Speedway Blvd., Tucson: 'Ugliest street in the US' (lots of old pics)
« Reply #19 on: July 24, 2020, 10:46:44 AM »

On Speedway specifically...

Speedway is the only road in the country, from what I've seen, that has any painted "yield" lines for traffic turning left. They are seen at a few intersections north of U of A.

They are not the typical "sharks teeth" that you might otherwise see where you're supposed to yield, but the more typical block markings seen in other countries like Japan or South Africa.

For this reason alone, Speedway will always have a special place in my heart. Whoever's in charge of things down there... +1 for creativity.



I like the concept but those yield lines are rather close to oncoming traffic. All you need is one person to overshoot it just a bit...  :-o
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Re: Speedway Blvd., Tucson: 'Ugliest street in the US' (lots of old pics)
« Reply #20 on: July 25, 2020, 04:39:03 AM »

This was a cool read with some cool photos. Thanks for sharing!
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DJStephens

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Re: Speedway Blvd., Tucson: 'Ugliest street in the US' (lots of old pics)
« Reply #21 on: July 26, 2020, 09:05:01 AM »

Wasn't Tangerine Rd (unsigned AZ 989) meant to be the northern part of a beltway?

  Tangerine seems a bit far out (to the N) to have been part of a limited access beltway.   Yet there it is on that planning document from decades ago. Maybe? it was envisioned as an expressway type route.  Did do some asphalt sampling about 15 months ago on the "four laning" or "boulevardization" of it.   This was E of Interstate 10.   
   Back in the day, would have attempted to run a facility (similar to Calif's I-210) along the foothills to Houghton, then turning S to rejoin 10 at a stack interchange.  Box beam or segmental.
Then continuing S and then W to meet 19.   With a high speed T type of interchange, again, of box beam or segmental flyovers.  Then, the foothills, and Houghton, were empty, today the foothills are filled with millionaire housing. 
   Kino Parkway, yesterday's 710, would have been a useful stub to access the University from 10. 
   Aviation-Barraza, or AZ 210 believe was supposed to penetrate downtown, but in recent times, does not seem very likely.   A 810 designation would have been more appropriate, had it ever been able to meet 10 at both ends.   
« Last Edit: July 26, 2020, 09:25:42 AM by DJStephens »
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jakeroot

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Re: Speedway Blvd., Tucson: 'Ugliest street in the US' (lots of old pics)
« Reply #22 on: July 26, 2020, 11:23:29 AM »

The beauty of that is that practically every arterial moves well.  No need to go out of your way, your arterial is likely just as fast as the arterial 1 mile to the north and 1 mile to the south.  It means that traffic is spread out more and that minimizes congestion.

If they put in an E-W freeway in Tucson, it would be a traffic draw and quickly get congested.  For a city of its size, I think that Tucson is doing the right thing.

This is what I think it comes down to. Another freeway might help improve flow across all arterial streets, but you'll see a total change in flow near the freeway, and fundamental changes in development styles, planning, and zoning with a new freeway. Enough changes that I don't see the point, frankly. I've seen what freeways do to other urban areas. It's just not worth it. Not anymore, at least. There would be an incredible amount of expropriation required to build any freeway anyway.
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DRMan

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Re: Speedway Blvd., Tucson: 'Ugliest street in the US' (lots of old pics)
« Reply #23 on: July 27, 2020, 03:22:51 PM »

As a recent transplant from New England, I am impressed with the extent of the arterial system in Tucson. It isn't perfect and the traffic signals aren't consistent (permissive left turn on green here, flashing yellow arrow there) but it gets the job done. At least this time of the year, I haven't seen any significant delays, even driving across town on a Friday afternoon. We'll see if that holds true during the winter.
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Re: Speedway Blvd., Tucson: 'Ugliest street in the US' (lots of old pics)
« Reply #24 on: July 27, 2020, 03:39:43 PM »

guessing top picture is roughly 1974-75 timeframe.  Fuel prices have already risen, above fifty cents a gallon for medium and premium.   Drink and Drown, Cheap Trix - guess that is a gentlemans' club? 
Do you see the late-1970's full-sized Oldsmobile in the left-turn lane there? That makes this from the late-1970's.
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