Oro Valley has a chance to see North Oracle Road restored from one end of town to the other.
The Arizona Department of Transportation plans to invest $31 million in pavement preservation and related improvements on Oracle Road, also known as State Highway 77, between West River Road and Calle Concordia. Construction is set to start in fiscal year 2020, and will include sidewalks from River Road to West Magee Road and street lighting from River Road to West Ina Road.
Last month, ADOT added an additional project to its tentative five-year Transportation Facilities Construction Program for 2020 to 2024 that would extend the pavement preservation on Oracle Road up to West Tangerine Road.
Town of Oro Valley Public Works Director Paul Keesler said getting this second project into the five-year plan was a huge step toward fixing Oro Valley’s busiest roadway, but approval isn’t a guarantee. The project is awaiting a vote from the ADOT board in late June. The project won’t have a set funding source until it receives approval.
Keesler, along with Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce President Dave Perry, spoke at ADOT’s board meeting March 15 to advocate for moving this project to fruition.
“They have a whole lot of projects and a whole little funding, so a lot of projects on that proposed plan are going to be cut,” Keesler said. “That’s why I felt it was important for me to show up and to show the town’s desire, show the support the town has for keeping that project and making it become a reality.”
If approved, ADOT estimates that additional pavement preservation will cost $11 million and could begin in FY 2022. Funding for these two projects comes from the Highway Safety Improvement Program and the National Highway Performance Program. Both are federal aid programs that provide funds on an assessed need basis.
There are currently 429 proposed road projects in the highway section of the five-year plan, which spans the entire state of Arizona. It totals to over $2 billion in estimated costs.
The condition of Oracle Road is paramount in order for drivers to not avoid it, according to Keesler. If a road is in good shape people will use it, and if the road is deteriorating people will find routes around it. Perry agreed with this statement, saying that a good road is required for economic growth.
“People go where they can move quickly and efficiently and then get to where they need to go and find the goods and services they want,” Perry said. “And if the road is bad they will go elsewhere, it’s just human nature.”
He mentioned the growing population in SaddleBrooke and Catalina. If Oracle continues to erode, he worries those residents will do their shopping outside of Oro Valley.
“We want people to drive on Oracle Road,” Perry said. “We want it as a business community, and I would suggest that the community at large wants traffic on Oracle Road because that is indicative of economic activity.”
Perry, who has advocated for fixing up Oracle Road at numerous public meetings, sees the largest problems as seasonal traffic that is significantly heavier in the winter, pedestrians at risk of life-threatening collisions due to a lack of sidewalks, and inadequate ingress and egress of businesses along the Oracle Road corridor. He said the latter is key to economic viability.
“We live in this community, a great place to live, and we are so proud, justifiably, of the condition of our roads, except for one road, the one that’s not ours,” he said. “The state highway.”
With limited state resources, Perry said the real question is how to find ways to pair local funding with state funding to maintain the quality of Oracle Road.
“It’s the most important road in the community, and it’s also in the worst condition,” he said. “I wanted the ADOT board to recognize that as we grow… it’s just going to get more challenging.”
Perry is encouraging Oro Valley residents to comment on this second project during ADOT’s public outreach process, if they feel strongly enough about the condition of Oracle Road.
ADOT will take public feedback about the 2020 to 2024 five-year program up until their board meeting on June 21 where they will take a final vote, according to Keesler.
“It takes multiple voices to government to say ‘we think this should be a priority,’” Perry said. “So we’ll see if we have a voice.”