August 09, 2006 - Just two weeks after rains began pounding the metro area, damage estimates and residents' frustration with road closures continue to grow.

The Pima County Office of Emergency Management estimates countywide flood damage at $6.2 million.

Berry Acres in northern Marana took the brunt of the flooding after the Santa Cruz River spilled into the town and forced about 80 people from their homes. Town officials put damages to public infrastructure at $300,000 so far, but expect that number to rise in the coming weeks.

Marana Town Manager Mike Reuwsaat said the figure does not include any damage to private property. It will take at least a few weeks for the county to tabulate the cost of damage to private property, he added.

County operations manager Dave Cummings said repairs in his division alone could cost at least $1.8 million.

That amount includes road cleanups and repairs to Trico Road, Hardin to Trico-Marana roads, including the Santa Cruz River Bridge. Other costly road repairs include La Cholla Boulevard at the Cañada del Oro Wash, the Mount Lemmon Control Road and Catalina Highway, which had a retaining wall and bridge damaged.

La Cholla Boulevard at the Cañada del Oro Wash, which cuts through Oro Valley southwest into Marana, remains closed. It suffered damage underneath the pavement, Cummings said. The county official also said the turbulent water eroded the road's foundation and created a "very big void in the pavement."

"While it may look like it's OK from the surface, if drivers were to drive on it, it would collapse," Cummings said.

He estimated the gap at 3 to 4 feet deep.

The county plans to open that road, at least partially, sometime this week.

Franceska Baker and her husband, who live in Tucson National Estates off of Magee Road, surveyed the road damage on Sunday to see exactly what's causing them so much trouble on their commute.

Baker said La Cholla's closure has forced more traffic onto Magee Road, her subdivision's only exit.

She said drivers who normally take northbound La Cholla Boulevard instead have been taking Magee Road to Shannon Road, making it difficult to turn either direction onto Magee Road.

"The traffic is backed up and we can't get out," she said. "We've been trying to get a stoplight there for years."

With the increased traffic, Baker estimated it takes about 10 minutes to get from La Cholla Boulevard to Shannon Road.

Mel Speck, who lives in La Cholla Hills, also stopped Sunday to check out the damaged road.

"It's gonna take a while to clean this up," Speck said. "The rains haven't even stopped yet."

Speck said she has noticed a lot of additional traffic on La Cañada Drive and Shannon Road since La Cholla Boulevard closed.

"At least now people aren't trying to get through," Speck said as she pointed at the 5-foot-tall mounds of dirt piled behind the "Road Closed" signs.

Cummings said his team will work as fast as possible to repair the roads. But, with more rain expected this week, he can't say when they'll finish.

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