Unknown to most residents, Oro Valley's town codes prohibit road construction workers from tying up morning and evening rush hour traffic, a fact that will make motorists particularly happy when work on the first of six major road improvement projects begins in about two months.

In all, more than $90 million will be spent from July of this year through the 2007 fiscal year on a wide range of improvements that will include road widenings, the building of new roads and bridges, pedestrian walkways and bike lanes, reconfiguring intersections for easier turning and drainage work.

It will be the biggest series of road improvement projects ever undertaken by the town, said Mayor Paul Loomis. All of the projects are expected to take from 18 to 24 months to complete.

Based on current schedules this is what the town has in mind:

First, the town plans to begin construction in July on the widening of Tangerine Road to four lanes from two from La Canada Drive to First Avenue at a cost of $10.5 million. The goal is to take some of the pressure off the Oracle Road and First Avenue area, one of the worst areas in terms of road quality, by shifting traffic west to La Canada and north to Tangerine and to make this stretch safer for both motorists and pedestrians alike with changes in road alignment, drainage improvements and new shoulders. Rubberized asphalt will be used in the construction to reduce noise. The projects are financed by federal funds, but as in the case of all major road projects, the town is setting aside 10 percent of project's total cost each year as a contingency, said Paul Nzomo, engineering division manager in the town's Public Works Department.

All the town's major road improvement projects are se-quenced so no two projects will be going on at the same time, Nzomo said. Another factor that makes Oro Valley's road work less daunting to its residents is that none of its roads have reached capacity, a major factor contributing to the minimal delays.

"We're trying to do our major work now so that the roads don't reach capacity rather than waiting another four or five years and having people calling up and screaming at us," Nzomo said.

Under an intergovernmental agreement now being negotiated with Pima County, La Canada next spring would be widened from two lanes to four from Lambert to Ina Road at a cost of $23 million. An estimated $6.5 million of that would go toward the town's portion of the widening from Lambert south to Rancho Feliz. And $3.5 million of that is being paid for out of 1997 bonds floated by the county.

Beginning in the summer of 2003, work will begin on a three-lane extension of Pusch View Lane from Oracle Road across the Canyon del Oro Wash that will connect with Lambert Lane. The crossing of CDO Wash will require a new bridge. This work will be done at a cost of about $8 million, consisting of about $456,000 in matching funds from the town and the rest federal funds.

The work will be done in conjunction with an $8.5 million widening of Lambert in 2006 to four lanes from two from Rancho Sonora to Pusch View. The four-lane section will start at the future Pusch View-Lambert Lane connection and taper to two lanes about 1,000 feet west of the La Canada-Lambert intersection. The road between the Pusch View-Lambert connection to the First and Lambert intersection will be three lanes. The town's share of this portion will be about $485,000, the rest federal funds.

The purpose of the work is to improve driving conditions to Lambert between First Avenue and Rancho Sonora and to provide drainage facilities to limit flooding. The existing road will be realigned and provide a four-lane section with medians curbs, gutters and a sidewalk on the north side of the road. The hill west of Lambert will be removed to provide better sight distances.

Also next summer, La Canada will be extended from two to four lanes from Tangerine to Moore Road at a cost of $7.5 million, including $427,500 in town matching funds and federal funds. The work will include drainage and intersection improvements, landscaping, pedestrian walkways, bike lanes and recommended median openings for properties along La Canada. In February, the council approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Arizona Department of Transportation covering design and right of way acquisition costs. Under that agreement, the town's share of those costs is $59,720 and $988,000 in federal funds will be provided.

In the summer of 2005, work is scheduled to begin on a widening of First Avenue from two to four lanes from the CDO Wash to Tangerine at a cost of $8.5 million, all federal funds. The four-lane road will connect to a new bridge at the CDO Wash and connect with the Tangerine Road widening at the Tangerine and First Avenue intersection. The existing road will be realigned and provide a four-lane section with median, curbs, gutters, sidewalks and landscaping improvements at Naranja Drive, Lambert and Palisades Road.

Plans for the widening of Oracle Road from four to six lanes from Pusch View to La Reserve, the widening of Pusch View from Oracle to the entrance of Risky Business restaurant to four lanes from two and the widening of First Avenue from Oracle to the CDO Wash from two lanes to four at a combined cost of $8 million, are on hold pending the outcome of plans for development in the La Reserve area on the east side of Oracle.

Canyon Del Oro Partners is seeking an amendment to the town's General Plan that would allow them to develop a combined 130-acre commercial-residential center. The developers and La Reserve residents have been attempting to resolve differences regarding the location of a hotel, gas station and Walgreens store in the proposed Pusch Ridge Center.

Oro Valley is working on establishing an Oracle Road Improvement District to help finance its share of road improvements in the area, the bulk of which would be financed by the state.

The town also is working with the state on plans for the widening of Oracle from Calle Concordia to Rancho Vistoso from four to six lanes and the widening of Tangerine from First to Oracle to four lanes from two. This would be done in the 2005-2006 fiscal year.

Engineering contracts have yet to be awarded for a widening of La Canada from two to four lanes from Tangerine to Naranja and no estimate of costs has been made on this work. Requests for proposals should be out for this project by late this summer.

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