La Cholla Construction

The largest roadway project taking place in Oro Valley in 2020, the La Cholla widening, is expected to wrap up in September.

As a new year dawns, a number of long-awaited road construction projects are on the horizon. The state of Arizona will be repaving Oracle Road from Oro Valley down to River Road. The City of Tucson will be widening Broadway Boulevard east of downtown and starting work on the long-planned Downtown Links project designed to connect the Barraza-Aviation Highway to I-10. And jurisdictions across the metro area will be focusing on repaving and rebuilding many streets. 

Here’s a roundup on what you can expect.

Pima County

Moving into 2020, Pima County will focus its transportation infrastructure efforts on much needed pavement preservation and maintenance.

More than $50 million in road repair or pavement preservation work will be completed or started in the next calendar year, said Pima County Director of  Communications Mark Evans.

Transportation Director Ana Olivares said many of the roads in unincorporated Pima County are in “poor” or “failing” condition. 

“Pavement preservation has been our focus for a little while now and about 70 percent of our roads are in poor or failed condition,” she said. “They need to be improved. We’ve been working at it the last few years and the Board of Supervisors recently approved a program to fund all infrastructure projects in the county, and as part of that they will give some money to transportation to do road repair for the next 10 years.”

In November, the supervisors unanimously passed a new pay-as-you-go policy to use property taxes to pay for capital projects, including roads. 

The work over the next decade is expected to raise the condition of unincorporated roads to “very good” ratings. 

Overall, with the funding allocated by the board and what is currently already in the transportation budget, about $526 million will go towards fixing all the county’s roads over the next 10 years. 

“For most of our local roads we haven’t had any funding to do repairs or maintenance and most of those have gone to a failed condition,” Olivares said. “That is a big expense, a big plan and we are excited to have this funded.”

Road preservation consists of various tasks based on the age of the road, when it was last maintained and its needs, ranging from seals to completely removing two inches deep of pavement and replacing it.

Olivares said the county is currently working on pavement preservation funded in the last fiscal year and the 10-year preservation project to repair all unincorporated roads in the county is expected to start sometime after July 1. 

Along with repairing the roads, the county will see several large projects during 2020. 

A $26.2 million improvement project on Valencia Road from Wade Road to Ajo Way is expected to end this year. The project includes widening the existing roadway, adding additional travel lanes, a raised landscape median, bike lanes and a multi-use path for pedestrians. 

The project is part of the Regional Transportation Authority program, a half-cent sales tax passed by the voters in 2006.

The county is also continuing an intersection improvement project at Tanque Verde Road and Tanque Verde Loop Road to improve accessibility and safety. The county is adding a traffic signal to the intersection, separate left and right turning lanes, ADA curb ramps, bike lanes and lighting/driveways for private property access. Work is expected to be completed in 2020. 

In just a couple months, the county will begin work at Bopp Road, creating a “four-legged intersection” with Bopp Road, Sarasota Boulevard and Kinney Road. They will also install a new traffic signal, lighting, an 11-foot wide travel lane and paved shoulders. 

The project will cost roughly $5 million and is expected to be completed in 2020. 

Olivares said the county strives to keep the interruption to motorists during construction projects minimal, though they rarely may have to close a road for the safety of workers and motorists, and to keep on schedule. 

The biggest delay residents will encounter during this year’s county projects will be reduced speed limits in construction zones. 

Olivares said the funding going into 2020 will not only improve the roads in poor shape throughout unincorporated Pima County, but also protect new pavement for years to come. 

“We’re very excited to have a plan to be able to repair what we have and at the same time, preserve the investments we’re making,” she said. “Once those projects get done, we have a plan in place to preserve them so we’re not all in the same place we are right now.”

Marana

Throughout 2020, the Town of Marana will spend millions of dollars reconstructing damaged pavement and expanding roads from as far as the borders of Avra Valley and Oro Valley.  

These developments include $2.1 million for the reconstruction of Avra Valley Road, from Sanders Road to the western town limits. The new pavement will be three inches thicker than before, which is expected to “greatly increase” the lifetime of the road. Roughly 4,000 feet of the project is in Pima County, so the Town of Marana and the county are working jointly on reconstructing the road.

The Town of Marana will also spend an estimated $4.1 million reconstructing half a mile of Lon Adams Road, from Grier Road to Barnett Road. This project will consist of replacing the existing pavement section, adding sidewalks, lighting, landscaping and improving drainage in the area. This project is in conjunction with recent developments at the Marana Municipal Complex, and will accommodate pedestrian improvements from the complex to Ora Mae Harn Park.

Near the border of Oro Valley, Marana will spend $1.7 million reconstructing Camino de Oeste. This project will widen Camino de Oeste to 30 feet from Rain Cloud Street to Moore Road, adding six-foot shoulders, a multi-use path and landscape improvements. This is to align Camino de Oeste’s appearance to that of the Tangerine Corridor Project.

In terms of new roadways, the town is planning on extending Adonis Road from west Grier Road to Tangerine Road, just east of I-10. This new, two-lane road would provide secondary access for the Adonis and San Lucas communities. The new road will be approximately three miles long, with four-foot shoulders. This secondary access to Tangerine Road has been requested for many years, and will also provide a “vital safety outlet in the event of an emergency at the railroad crossing.” 

The budget and completion date of the Adonis Road extension depend on other projects.

The town is also planning to rebuild several roadways for the Continental Ranch and the Desert Traditions neighborhoods, but the cost and timing of the project are still being evaluated.

Smaller road projects include $310,000 to close sidewalk gaps along the western side of Silverbell Road, a tentative $280,000 to add a pedestrian crosswalk beacon at the intersection of Tangerine Farms Road and Heritage Park Drive near Gladden Farms Elementary, and $150,000 to repair “distressed roadway areas” on Marana Main Street between the Marana Municipal Complex and Grier Road.

While still in the planning process, a proposed Interstate 11 may run through the western Marana and Avra Valley areas. I-11, planned to run from Nogales to Wickenburg in Maricopa County, is 

 intended to be final section of the “CANAMEX Corridor,” linking trade from Canada to Mexico. 

The currently planned I-11 project, which is supported by the Town of Marana, also includes a proposed connection to I-10 in the Picture Rocks area. Throughout 2019, the Arizona Department of Transportation hosted multiple meetings in Marana for public review and comment of a draft of the I-11 Environmental Impact Statement. In 2020, the “Final Tier 1” Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be completed and available for review.

Oro Valley

Oro Valley’s positive reputation for smooth roads requires ongoing maintenance and upgrades, so work will continue in 2020.

The Arizona Department of Transportation will repave Oracle Road (aka State Route 77), from River Road to Calle Concordia. Construction crews will perform a major surface treatment, along with lighting and sidewalk improvements.

The project has a $12 million price tag, funded through ADOT’s 2020-2024 construction program.

Oro Valley’s biggest road task in the new year will be the continuation of the La Cholla Boulevard widening project, which is scheduled for completion in September 2020, according to Paul Keesler, the town engineer and public works director.

The La Cholla improvements are an RTA project. Approximately two miles of the three-mile project between Overton Road and Tangerine Road are in Oro Valley, while the remaining mile is in unincorporated Pima County.

Keesler said La Cholla Boulevard was originally a rural two-lane road with dip crossings for drainage and it had some visibility issues. This widening project will fix those problems and increase the capacity to a four-lane desert parkway.

“It was part of the RTA plan, so back in 2006 it was identified as one of the main north-south corridors,” Keesler said. “It will help relieve both Oracle and La Cañada as another major north-south route.”

On the east side of Rancho Vistoso Boulevard near  Moore Road, a new loop is being built to connect Moore Road down to Arrowsmith Drive. Keesler said there are some new residential subdivisions under construction in that area, so the funding will be primarily from private developers, not the town.

However, the developers will receive some funding from the town in impact fee credits because the project is included in Oro Valley’s infrastructure improvement plan. Keesler said the project should be done in the next six months or so.

As town staff begin planning for next fiscal year’s budget, Keesler said they will have a better idea of road projects for 2020-2021. Right now, any projects are purely speculative until the council decides on what gets funded and what doesn’t.

“The big one for us is La Cholla as far as new construction, but the hallmark of Oro Valley is our pavement preservation,” Keesler said.

The town’s spring pavement preservation program will consist of crack sealing on various roads from January through May. Keesler said staff will also do a mill and repave of Pusch View Lane, which is a much more robust project.

Other small projects include a rectangular rapid flashing beacon that will be installed at a pedestrian crossing on La Cañada Drive at Cañada Hills Drive in the spring. This item in particular was heavily requested by community members, according to Keesler. He said the beacon will help increase pedestrian safety at that location.

Oro Valley crews will also install a new entrance to the Fry’s plaza at Tangerine Road near First Avenue in late January.

Lastly, town staff is conducting a study on Shannon Road from Naranja Drive to Lambert Lane that will be finished in the new year. Keesler said they are looking at a design to rebuild the road for drainage improvements and replace the pavement.

“This is only the design phase right now, and it’s not widening the road, it’s merely fixing the road that’s going to be crumbling in the not-too-distant future,” Keesler said.

City of Tucson

After decades of planning, the city of Tucson is finally poised to start two major projects in the heart of the city.

The first is the widening of Broadway from the east end of downtown to Country Club Road. The controversial project has been reduced from eight lanes to six, but critics still complain that the level of traffic doesn’t justify six lanes. City planners say the end result will be a wider road that will more easily accommodate rush-hour traffic while improving mobility for pedestrians and cyclists through the Sunshine Mile. The plan calls for major improvements to the sidewalks and bike lanes along the congested corridor. The project is expected to be completed in 2021. 

The second major project is the Downtown Links, which is designed to complete the long-planned “final mile” of Barraza-Aviation Highway from Broadway Boulevard to I-10. As with the Broadway widening, Downtown Links has been scaled back from initial plans; the current plans call for it to run parallel with the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to Sixth Street, which will be realigned to eliminate the current at-grade railroad crossing. Construction is expected to begin in April 2020.

On the east side, the city will be widening Houghton Road from Valencia Road to Mary Ann Cleveland Way this year.

The city will also continue repaving and reconstructing various streets through the Tucson Delivers Better Streets program funded through a temporary sales tax passed by voters as Prop 101  in 2017. 

Kathleen Kunz, Jamie Verwys, Jim Nintzel and Jeff Gardner contributed to this article.

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