Letter to City Council regarding Milton

Dear Mayor and Council members,

We are writing to share thoughts about widening Milton Road between Riordan and Phoenix streets. We share Mr. Overton’s concern about this, as reported in the Daily Sun:

“I do question a little bit why we would put 15 percent of the projected funding into Milton,” Councilman Scott Overton said. “We know it’s a challenging road, but to spend $40 million on a road that we know is very challenging, I think it might appease the community members that feel like that road’s not performing, but I’m concerned that it’s never going to be performing.”

We agree that widening Milton would seem to be a “feel-good” measure that would not have a long-term positive effect on the congestion on Milton. Additionally, it would tend to speed up traffic and make it feel less safe for pedestrians and cyclists. We have read, in our studies on walkability, livability and community-building, about how widening streets like Milton to attempt to make them high speed roads improves traffic flow only in the short term. Wider streets allow congestion to simply build back up to previous levels in the long term and make a dangerous street even more dangerous.

We would propose a different approach to improving Milton. Instead of attempting to increase speed on Milton, consider transforming it into an attractive gateway into the city.  In other words, rather than make it a fast street, make it a beautiful street.

We see the chance to improve Milton as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. As a community, we can accept that traffic will necessarily slow as it enters the busy historic downtown area, and make it an interesting drive that welcomes visitors to our unique Flagstaff community. Trees and other landscaping, a green barrier between the street and wider sidewalks where possible, would create greater safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Public art and thematic signage could create greater community interest on the stretch between Riordan Road and Humphreys. 

Flagstaff’s downtown area will always tend to be the busiest part of town. Related traffic congestion is a burden which sometimes beauty can lighten. But there are also significant benefits to slower traffic: It is safer for those not in cars; it meets the community’s goal of increasing walkability; and it improves exposure to the business community, an important feature in a tourism economy. $40 million would be better invested in creating a welcoming entry to Flagstaff than in helping drivers to speed through it.

We recommend that the study commission mentioned in the Daily Sun article include local architects, landscape architects, artists and involved community members with the skills and insight to envision how streets can contribute to community character rather than detract from it.

Sincerely,
Stand Up for Flagstaff