The reverse lanes on Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street were created in 1979 as a north/south traffic flow solution to help move residents and commuters to and from downtown Phoenix. Based on the Reverse Lanes Task Force recommendation the City Council approved retaining the reverse lanes in December 2010 along with safety enhancements.
The City Council approved safety-related changes to the reverse lanes last night, which included added enforcement during hours of operation (i.e. speed trailers and possibly photo enforcement), ongoing education, left hand turn opportunity at Camelback Road and 7th Avenue, and improved signage to include lights/beacons. Although I support most of these changes, I voted against this item as I have concerns with spending $4.8 million on lights/beacons and believe we can do without them. City of Phoenix Street Transportation Department studies have shown that the reverse lanes are as safe as other major arterial streets like 16th Street and 19th Avenue. In fact, even the Federal Highway Administration has said that the lanes are efficient because they reduce congestion and “thus are likely to reduce rear-end collisions.”
Adding the lights/beacons to last night’s vote was a surprise and disappointment to me since the Transportation, Sustainability, and Infrastructure Subcommittee had voted unanimously 3-0 on June 2, 2011 to remove the lights/beacons due to the high cost. Given our tight City budget situation, funding these lights/beacons will delay or cut other much needed streets capital improvement projects that my constituents and other Phoenix residents have been expecting over the years. Further, our streets capital projects budget was reduced $12 million this year by State reductions of Arizona Highway User Funds provided to cities.
The reverse lanes have been enjoyed safely by north central and central Phoenix users ever since 1979, including the Sunnyslope and Moon Valley areas in Council District 3. I look forward to hearing from Phoenix residents, visitors, and staff as to how these new safety enhancements are performing in order to ensure continued safety on our important reverse lanes.
Councilman Bill Gates represents Council District 3 in north Phoenix and includes the Sunnyslope, Moon Valley, and Paradise Valley Mall areas.