The “Michigan left” has made its way to Tucson.
Following the completion of a $5 million project by the Pima County Department of Transportation in conjunction with the Regional Transportation Authority and Arizona Department of Transportation, motorists can no longer make a left-hand turn from eastbound Ina Road onto northbound Oracle Road or from westbound Ina Road onto southbound Oracle Road.
Travelers attempting to make said turns are instead being rerouted through the intersection to newly installed traffic lights, at which point they will make a U-turn and then turn right onto Oracle Road.
Annabelle Valenzuela, program manager of the Pima County Department of Transportation, says the county initiated the project more than three years ago to address safety concerns that have come with the growing amount of traffic at the intersection.
About 96,000 motorists travel through the intersection per day, she says, which is the seventh highest in the region. That number is expected to swell to 126,000 vehicles per day in the next 20 to 30 years with the anticipated growth of Oro Valley, Catalina, and surrounding areas.
A similar project is being completed at the intersection of Oracle and Grant roads.
The hope with the new indirect left, otherwise known as a “Michigan left” for its popularity in the northern state, is to increase safety by improving traffic efficiency and reducing the total number of car crashes.
Bob Roggenthen, Pima County project manager, says the new layout will prevent common head-on collisions that come in the intersection during left-hand turns.
Also, adds Roggenthen, pedestrians will have to monitor traffic from fewer directions with the left hand turns eliminated.
While some of the kinks are still being worked out, Roggenthen says the most common problem in the intersection is motorists disobeying the new traffic laws.
“We still have people trying to turn left at the intersection,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to be a problem when there is a lot of traffic, but when the traffic dies off – which is becoming more common with the new construction – people try to make the left turn still, which is obviously against the law.”
New electronic signs using LED technology will soon be installed to remind travelers that no U-turns or left-hand turns are allowed from Ina Road.
Along with safety enhancements, Roggenthen expects a 40 percent increase in intersection efficiency.
Much of that has to do with the fact Ina Road will now have two designated right turn lanes leading to northbound Oracle, he says.
The project was initiated by Pima County based on engineering and traffic studies, and funded by the Regional Transportation Authority using public money.
The county decided to act after ADOT stated it had no plans to upgrade the intersection.
Still, ADOT had to give approval since the project involves Oracle Road, a state highway under its jurisdiction.
“Once the concept was approved by Pima County, ADOT, and the RTA, the project team held neighborhood and business meetings to review the concept and to address neighborhood and business concerns,” said Priscilla Cornelio, director of Pima County Department of Transportation.
Due to the three closely positioned jurisdictions in the area, should a collision occur, the responding jurisdiction will vary.
Lt. Kara Riley, spokesperson for the Oro Valley Police Department, says if an accident occurs within the intersection, it is the responsibility of the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS), while if it occurs west of the intersection on Ina Road between Oracle Road and Paseo Del Norte, the Oro Valley Police Department would answer the call.
Vehicular incidents east of the Oracle and Ina intersection would fall under the jurisdiction of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.