Orange Grove exit remains closed to accommodate traffic from the Ina exchange construction project

There are times it seems like Marana is the road construction capital of the United States. 

Major projects are underway at West Ina Road and I-10, East Tangerine and North Cortaro roads, plus smaller projects on North Silverbell Road, West Twin Peaks Road and even south of the town at Sunrise Road, traffic has been affected adversely. 

Scott Leska, the Town of Marana Engineering Manager said they are being “killed by traffic.”

“It is tough for our residents, it is tough for our businesses,” Leska said, at a Marana Chamber of Commerce Community and Regional Update.

The closure of West Ina Road at the interstate has proven to be the biggest challenge for the town. With extra traffic utilizing West Orange Grove Road to get off I-10, traffic was becoming an issue on North Thornydale Road between Orange Grove and Ina. 

Leska and his team’s first task was to re-time the traffic signals at the intersection and get the traffic moving on Thornydale. The most notable aspect of the retiming is the double service or double pump of the left hand turn lanes from eastbound Orange Grove onto north bound Thornydale. With more traffic utilizing Orange Grove to leave I-10, the town saw a need to get traffic flowing better onto Thornydale to avoid back-ups on Orange Grove and the freeway. 

The turn lanes now get two green lights, allowing more cars through the intersection. 

“What we found, doing that with just minor tweaking of the traffic timing we could get more traffic moving through that left turn,” Leska said.

Unfortunately, while more traffic was getting through that intersection and onto Thornydale, that caused problems of its own. The move caused a major back-up at Thornydale and West Costco Drive. 

“Everyone seemed to want to go to Costco and Home Depot and the other businesses there,” Leska said.  

Drivers had to back up to the south of the dual left turns and occasionally blocked through traffic. Leska said the issue was causing “absolute havoc.”

To combat the new problem, the town had to double service at that left hand turn as well. As with the move at Orange grove, that too helped with traffic flow. 

The bigger issue is that the whole corridor remains over capacity, and will likely remain that way until the Ina Road project concludes. Leska and the town’s goal is to just to keep traffic moving as well as they can. Lights were retimed at Horizon Hills, and have used flashing yellow lights for left hand turns. The town has used the flashing yellow lights elsewhere in the town, and have been successful, especially in keeping drivers more vigilant and provide flexibility and timing.

Leska admitted they could not do much at the Thornydale and Ina intersection, but did tweak the timing a bit to keep things moving. Because they have dual left turns in each direction, they had to keep solid red arrows for left turns, but the timing tweaks have provided some relief. 

Cortaro is another route used to bypass Ina, and has been a mess at times. 

“Cortaro is sometimes a parking lot, it is tough to get through,” Leska said.  

He said his staff worked “diligently” with ADOT, using pressure from the public, town council and town staff as well, to retime the traffic signal at the interchange and created a double left turn to get motorists off the off ramp and onto east bound Cortaro. The hope was to spend less time on the off ramp and more time under the freeway and on Cortaro.

“It’s not perfect, but it is slowly getting to a solution we can handle, at least for the next 20 months,” Leska said. 

He said they will keep monitoring traffic in the areas and keep working on other solutions. 

The county is beginning a major construction project on Cortaro east of the town limits that will affect Marana residents and those who work in the town. The county is currently working on moving utilities in the area and the major construction will begin soon, likely at the end of the Summer. 

At the opposite end of Cortaro, the town has made tweaks to the left hand turns around Arizona Pavilions. By utilizing left hand turns with both a permissive phase and a restricted phase, something the City of Tucson allows, but Pima County does not. So far the move has not only helped traffic, but has “proven to be safe.” 

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