Traffic jam

Drivers should expect improved conditions along the route to Phoenix once the Arizona Department of Transportation completes two widening projects in the Casa Grande area.

While Southern Arizona communities have a long list of potential road improvements, at least some of the needed work is getting done and more is scheduled for the new year. Here’s a roundup of the major projects on the 2019 horizon. 

Pima County:  Looking for more money 

With the failure of a road-bond package last November, Pima County will once again be going to the Arizona Legislature for some sort of avenue for increased road revenue, most likely through a reworking and extension of the Regional Transportation Authority’s current mission to expand capacity.

While that will depend on the kindness of state lawmakers, Pima County is continuing work on several projects in unincorporated areas. 

Just wrapping up is a widening of Cortaro Farms Road to four lanes between Camino de Oeste and Thornydale Road.

Under construction is a widening of the county’s Aerospace Parkway from Old Nogales Highway to the vicinity of World View Enterprises. This is part of the county’s economic development plan to build more high-tech and logistics centers near Raytheon.

Widening work to six lanes continues on Valencia Road between Wilmot and Kolb roads, with an estimated wrap in summer 2019.

The county is continuing to widen Valencia Road to four lanes with bike lanes and a multi-use pathway for pedestrians between Wade Road and Ajo Way. 

Improvement work at the intersection of Drexel Road and Benson Highway is expected to wrap in summer 2019. 

The county is also using state Highway User Revenue Funds (primarily gas taxes and vehicle registration fees) to repave roads. Work is nearly done on Pontatoc Road between River and Sunrise roads and Hacienda del Sol between River and Sunrise roads.  

 

State Highways: A smoother drive to Phoenix

The Department of Transportation is wrapping up work on the Ina Road bridge over I-10 this year—just in time to start a new major bridge just a few miles south, at Ruthrauff Road.

The Ina Road bridge, expected to wrap in the spring, will widen I-10 to three lanes in each direction and lower the I-10 to run beneath Ina Road. 

Construction bids for the Ruthrauff Road traffic interchange are expected in spring 2019, with construction on the project expected to being in summer 2019. The project will lower I-10 to go beneath Ruthrauff Road, and raise Ruthrauff Road to go over Davis Avenue/Highway Drive, the Union Pacific Railroad and I-10. In addition, both streets will be widened, with I-10 widening to four lanes in each direction and Ruthrauff Road widening to two lanes in each direction. Work is scheduled to last for up to 24 months, lasting from 2019 into 2021. While all traffic from Ruthrauff Road will close at I-10, business access will be maintained throughout the project. 

Between Tucson and Phoenix, the construction continues as always. The Department of Transportation is currently widening I-10 in the Casa Grande to Tucson to six lanes—three lanes in each direction. This will add one lane in each direction adjacent to the median, with a concrete barrier in the middle, also creating new bridges over Jimmie Kerr Boulevard. The $36.6 million project is scheduled for completion by summer 2019.

Elsewhere on that stretch of I-10, ADOT recently opened new westbound lanes in the Picacho Peak area from milepost 213 to milepost 209 near Eloy. Eastbound traffic will move to the new pavement in January, separated by concrete barrier while temporarily sharing what eventually will be pavement only for westbound traffic. Eastbound drivers are scheduled to get their own new lanes in spring 2019.

Renovations are being made in Nogales on the road connecting the Mariposa Port of Entry, primarily used for commercial vehicles, with Interstate 19. This project will include new ramps connecting State Route 189 with I-19, as well as a bridge over Frank Reed Road near Nogales High School.

The Department of Transportation has divided Ajo Way construction into two phases. Construction on Ajo Way involves widening a segment of Ajo Way between Valencia and Kinney roads to improve safety and traffic flow. Intersections with Camino Verde, Tucson Estates Parkway and Old Ajo Highway are being realigned. There will also be new drainage features and “low-maintenance” landscaping.

ADOT completed phase one of construction on Ajo Way in spring 2018, and began work on phase two in summer 2018. Phase two of this construction includes a new bridge being built over the Santa Cruz River. Phase two of construction is expected to be completed in January 2020. 

 

Marana: Ina Road rebirth tops 2019 projects

The Town of Marana will be celebrating the completion of the Ina Road/Interstate 10 interchange this spring, along with a makeover of Ina Road itself.

Mo El-Ali, who serves as the director of Marana’s Public Works Department, highlighted some of the biggest improvements on the horizon in 2019. 

Topping the list for El-Ali is the series of improvements made along Ina Road, including the new bridge that spans the lanes of I-10, as well as the Union Pacific tracks next to the roadway. 

There’s also the bridge built by the consortium of the Arizona Department of Transportation, his department and the Regional Transit Authority. 

The Town of Marana budgeted $6.9 million to the Santa Cruz bridge development in the 2019 fiscal year, along with $4.3 million for the Ina Road re-pavement project that runs from Ulene Place and the Cañada del Oro Wash. 

For El-Ali, the Ina Road project, as well as the $307,000 re-pavement project along Avra Valley Road from Sanders Road to the town’s western limits and the $3.9 million sidewalk addition from Coachline Boulevard Twin Peaks Road are the most important efforts for residents. 

“Good roads are critical to Marana’s economy and it has a variety of infrastructure needs,” El-Ali said. “It’s going to be safe, and safe roads connect people to work, to schools, doctors’ offices, grocery stores, places that are vital to everyone’s well-being. So, they’re essential.”

El-Ali’s department is tasked with maintaining and improving the 520 lane miles of road in the Pima County town. 

The Town of Marana repaved 66 lane miles of road in 2018, according to El-Ali, comprising 13 percent of the town’s total roadway. 

Residents can expect further improvements, in the form of repaving and adding ADA-compliant ramps along Gladden Farms Road (2020) and a new four-way intersection with stop lights at Arizona Pavilion and the Walmart parking lot entrance.

 

Oro Valley: La Cholla Road gets wider

Last October, the Town of Oro Valley broke ground on a project that will widen La Cholla to four lanes from Overton to Tangerine roads.

The work currently underway is the second phase of a greater project to widen and improve La Cholla beginning northbound from Magee Road, and includes widening to four lanes, improved drainage, multi-use paths and ADA accessibility, wildlife crossings and landscaped medians. The planning and design process for the overall project began back in 2009.

Of the 3.5 miles of work left to be completed, roughly 80 percent of the road lies within town limits, while the remainder is in unincorporated Pima County. Because most of the $20 million project will take place within the town, Oro Valley will oversee the work. Pima County will chip in more than $3 million. Oro Valley is providing nearly $2 million, with the remainder covered by the Regional Transportation Authority.

Oro Valley Town Engineer Paul Keesler said the work will allow the road to function as a proper regional relief for the traffic that ordinarily comes from Interstate 10 towards the City of Tucson and the northern part of the metro area. Instead of using North Thornydale, La Cañada or Oracle Roads, Keesler said drivers will benefit from a four-lane roadway along La Cholla when planning their north/south trips.

“The beauty of La Cholla is that it is somewhat between La Canada and Thornydale,” Keesler said. “It gives that other route down into the city, and actually into some industrial areas.”

Just a few miles down the road, the Town of Oro Valley is also debating the future of one of its most-used four-stops in the form of potential intersection improvements at North La Cañada Drive and West Moore Road.

According to Keesler, the town’s interest in the intersection stems from requests sent in by area residents concerned over the amount of vehicle collisions at the four-way stop. According to town data provided from between 2012 and 2016, a dozen collisions occurred at the intersection, a handful of which were caused by drivers failing to stop at one of the four stop signs.

Town Manager Mary Jacobs is still going over data and resident feedback before preparing her recommendation for council, though she told Tucson Local Media to expect a decision to be made in the coming weeks so work can begin.

If a signal is chosen for the intersection, the associated price tag is roughly $700,000, while the roundabout would cost about $1 million to construct.

Aside from those two major projects, Keesler said that drivers should be aware that pavement preservation work will begin once the temperature warms back up.

Contributions to this story were made by Logan Burtch-Buus, Jim Nintzel, Jeff Gardner, Kathleen B. Kunz and Christopher Boan.

(1) comment

Albert

You missed The Big One -- the decision on a "preferred alternative" route for Interstate 11, an new Avra Valley highway or improving I-10, due from ADOT any day now:

BUILDING A NEW INTERSTATE 11 THE PROS AND CONS
PRO: Without a new multi-billion-dollar I-11 highway, by the year 2040 travel time between Tucson and Nogales will increase as much as two (2) minutes. (Source: Presentation by Arizona Dept. of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration (ADOT/FHWA) I-11 Study Manager Jay Van Echo at Citizens for Picture Rocks meeting, 8/21/18).

CON: Improving I-10 instead of building a new highway through the Avra Valley would cost billions less taxpayer dollars. (Source: Arizona Dept. of Transportation State Engineer Jennifer Toth at State Transportation Board meeting in Tucson, December, 2008.)

PRO: Nearshoring: Building I-11 will attract American companies from China to Mexico where wages are now lower than in China. (Source: ADOT/FHWA Purpose and Need Memorandum, 2/28/17.)

CON: A new highway through the Avra Valley would bring air, noise and light pollution to tens of thousands of people. One eighth of Avra Valley residents are retirees, slightly less than 1/8 are military veterans, and 1/4 are under the age of 18. Four-fifths of the housing is owner-occupied. Dozens of families would be evicted. A new Valley Fever Corridor, a disease which now kills about 160 people a year, would be opened up. (Sources: Common sense! See also comments from the Pima Natural Resource Conservation District in Agency and Public Information Meetings, Appendix C; Public comments about impacted families by the Pima County Administrator. Valley Fever Corridor from UA News, 10/13/15).

PRO: Integrative Manufacturing: I-11 will facilitate research and development in Nevada and Arizona, with manufacture and assembly in Mexico. (Source: ADOT/FHWA Purpose and Need Memorandum, 2/28/17.)

CON: A new highway through the Avra Valley would result in vehicle emissions settling in Tucson Waters Avra Valley CAP settling ponds, potentially threatening the aquifer. Tucson would also lose jobs, businesses and tax revenue from the I-10 corridor. (Source: City of Tucson comments in ADOT/FHWA Scoping Summary Report, Appendix D, 1/25/17.)

PRO: I-11 will facilitate the shift of shipping and jobs from U.S. West Coast ports to the Mexican Port of Guaymas. (Source: ADOT/FHWA Purpose and Need Memorandum, 2/28/17.)

CON: Tourism would be negatively impacted at Saguaro National Park, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson Mountain Park, Ironwood Forest National Monument, Kitt Peak Observatory, Old Tucson. (Source: Pima Natural Resource Conservation District in Agency and Public Information Meetings, Appendix C.)

PRO: I-11 will enrich real estate speculators. (Source: Avra Valley Coalition research based on Assessor records.)

CON: Wildlife would be threatened and existing linkages imperiled to the point where some species would face extinction. (Source: Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, in Appendix H, Agency and Public Information Meeting Summary Report, 11/30/17.)

PRO: I-11 will provide a taxpayer-funded free access highway to a planned private development: What is now called the Sonoran Corridor (rejected in 2015 bond election) was originally shown on maps prepared by Pima County as part of I-11 to link I-19 and I-10. Instead of a straight east-west route, it drops south to provide a free access highway for Diamond Ventures planned Swan Southlands development. (Source: I-11 map proposed by Pima County Administrator & ADOT Sonoran Corridor alternatives).

CON: With over 3000 public comments in 2017, 89 percent opposed I-11 or any Avra Valley I-11 route, with only of one percent favoring it. ADOT/FHWA convened two Stakeholders Engagement Groups in early 2018, by invitation only, to try to bring the two sides together. The two groups merged as the I-11 Joint Stakeholder Community Planning Group, calling for I-10 improvements and declaring that A bypass through Avra Valley is not acceptable. (8/3/18)

DONT BE CONNED BY THE PROS: The I-11 Study Team is expected to announce its choice between an Avra Valley route, improving the existing I-10 corridor, or the rarely-used No Build option, by the end of 2018, or beginning of 2019.

Public meetings and comment periods will follow early in 2019 in Tucson and Marana. The planners have committed, for the first time, to allow open discussion and questions at the public meetings. While construction may be years away, choices made NOW will be set in stone.

Pima County Board of Supervisors Resolution 2007-343 opposes the construction of any new highways in or around the County that have the stated purpose of bypassing the existing Interstate 10 as it is believed that the environmental, historic, archaeological and urban form impacts could not be adequately mitigated.


ADOTS CURRENT MAPS WERE FINALLY OBTAINED THROUGH A FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT DEMAND. TO VIEW WITH INTERACTIVE GOOGLE MAPS AND SEE THE THREAT TO HOMES, WILDLIFE, AND WATER, VISIT:

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1…

ON RECORD OPPOSING I-11 IN THE AVRA VALLEY: Citizens for Picture Rocks; City of Tucson; Pima Natural Resource Conservation District; Garcia Strip Community of the Toak District; San Xavier District; and Schuk District, Tohono Oodham Nation; National Park Service; Friends of Saguaro National Park; Friends of Ironwood Forest; Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection; Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum; Tucson Audubon Society; Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation; I-11 Community Planning Group (several of the above plus Menlo Park Neighborhood Association, National Parks Conservation Association, Erickson Terrascape, Drachman Institute, and Statistical Research); Sierra Club; Friends of Tucson Mountain Park; Sky Island Alliance; Gates Pass Area Neighborhood Association; Congressman Raul Grijalva; State Senator Steve Farley; L.D. 11 State Senator Steve Smith & State Senator-elect Vince Leach, Rep. Mark Finchem & Representative-elect Bret Roberts (Republicans) ; LD 11Democrat State Rep. candidates Hollace Lyon & Ralph Atchue; Pima County Board of Supervisors Resolution 2007-343; Rancho del Conejo Community Water Co-op (partial list, and growing).

Published by the Avra Valley Coalition, an informal, unaffiliated and non-partisan collection of individuals and groups opposed to I-11 in the Avra Valley. Please make copies and help spread the word! To be added to our e-mail list, which is not shared, contact avravalleycoalition@gmail.com..

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