West Ina Road at Interstate 10 is currently filled with construction equipment, detours and dirt. With the environmental assessment on the project stating Ina’s closure could be up to 24 months, many local business owners originally felt concern about traffic rerouting away from their storefronts. However, this does not seem to be the case.
“The loyalty of local shoppers has been fantastic,” said Julee Baxley, co-owner of Integrity Automotive. “People have found shortcuts and rerouted themselves. Businesses with good reputations and loyal customers have not been affected.”
Integrity Automotive is only a few blocks off the I-10, almost as close the Ina project as a company can get, and according to Baxley, has not seen a slowdown.
“Ina is not closed,” Baxley said.
While some larger chains that rely on through-traffic have felt effects, such as the Jack in the Box and the longstanding Hooters that both shut down, many local family-owned businesses remain unaffected.
“There’s never a good time to close down roads,” said Ed Stolmaker, President and CEO of the Marana Chamber of Commerce. “But people have realized it needed to happen, and when it’s completed, it’ll help Marana.”
Stolmaker said social media and websites are helping businesses survive the lack of road traffic, and that there are even some people making efforts to go out and shop locally at specific stores to help out during the construction. In addition, the local Shop Marana program and app are helping calm the financial burdens.
“There are a lot of people that have helped out simply because they don’t want to see their local businesses hurting,” Stolmaker said.
Discount Muffler, which is within eyesight of the Ina Construction, may have been one of the businesses most affected, if not for some frugal planning.
“I’ve known the construction was coming for about five or six years, ever since it started up at Twin Peaks,” said Katrina Martinez of Discount Muffler. “I was concerned, but knew what I had to do.
I started prepping planning.”
Since the construction and lack of through-traffic in front of their location, Discount Muffler has actually expanded their store and hired additional staff.
“I did what you’d do in normal life if you knew something like this would happen,” Martinez said. “You just have to be smart with money and ask yourself ‘do I really need to buy this?’ All my previous clientele are still coming in. I haven’t lost any customers, in fact, I’ve gained some new ones.”
Tami Peek, owner of Copper Creek Cookies, knew about the looming closure before she even signed paperwork to start her business over ten years ago. Despite this foreknowledge, she and her husband Clint, like many local business owners in the immediate area, didn’t have to do much to prepare as they don’t rely too heavily on foot traffic.
“Currently, everything has to be rerouted from the area,” Peek said. “But when it opens backup, it will help businesses all around.”
She views the reduction of through-traffic a current, necessary burden that will have a positive impact in the future, even if it is tough for some.
“It’ll be a good thing for businesses that make it through the closure,” Peek said. “Tucson needed it. It’s currently like a thorn in our side, but it’ll soon be pulled and we’re so excited.”
According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, “The purpose of the interchange reconstruction project is to improve traffic operations on I-10 and on the Ina Road traffic interchange”. With design concepts and environmental assessments reaching back to 2013, the “Ina Road Traffic Interchange” project will see the I-10 growing to three lanes in each direction, and Ina Road growing to two lanes in each direction.
The Ina Road traffic interchange is expected to remain closed through 2018. The closure began last February.