Two-thirds of the Oracle Road widening project has been completed, representatives of the Arizona Department of Transportation told the Oro Valley Town Council last week.

ADOT representative Robin Raine told the council the project, which began in 2008, should wrap up in the spring of 2010.

An issue of concern to many Oro Valley residents has been the sound-barrier wall under construction north of First Avenue. People have criticized the appearance and height of the structure, which stands 16 feet at its highest point.

Oro Valley resident Matthew Moutafis took aim at the wall's aesthetics, calling it "visually offensive." He also questioned why town officials weren't more involved in the planning process, which began nearly four years ago.

"I think ADOT did a good job of doing what ADOT does, I don't think that Oro Valley did a good job doing what it should have done," Moutafis said.

Raine told the council the wall would be painted and more attractive when completed. "I suspect that the final project will look very nice," she said.

Raine noted the late James D. Kriegh, former town historian and one of the founders of Oro Valley, helped to authenticate a series of decorative brands that would appear on the final structure. The brands represent some of the historic ranches around Oro Valley in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Concerning the size of the wall, Raine explained the federal government provided funding, which meant certain guidelines had to be followed. One of those was the height of the wall.

"If we make it lower, it's not funded," Raine said.

Federal rules mandated a noise analysis, which determined the height of the wall.

Raine also noted that, despite recent criticisms, neighborhood groups whose homes are adjacent to the wall did not oppose it when presented with plans at meetings in 2006 and 2007.

"They were overwhelmingly in favor of it," Raine said.

Other neighborhood groups told ADOT they did not want the noise barricades in front of their houses.

ADOT also officials also updated the council on the request for Regional Transportation Authority funding for a proposed series of wildlife crossings along Oracle Road.

Raine said the department supported the placement of the structures, which would facilitate animal movement between the Santa Catalina and Tortolita mountain ranges.

"We urge the town of Oro Valley to sign on to the ADOT proposal for RTA funding," Raine said.

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