It’s hard to maintain a sense of humor when a traffic detour requires you to circumnavigate the globe instead of just crossing an intersection to get to your destination. With over a year remaining on the La Cholla Boulevard widening project, a sense of humor will be useful. Now that we’re six months in, you can begin to visualize how the new road will look when finished. It’s important to remember these growing pains are temporary and the benefits will last for years and decades to come. The project is scheduled to wrap up in early September 2020. Between now and then there’s a lot of work remaining, and that means no shortage of construction signs directing you to slow down, keep left and keep right.
My wife and I often joke when we see “Keep Left” and “Keep Right” signs paired together that we are being directed through a cattle chute. Humor is how my wife and I try to maintain our sanity in construction zones. That’s not always easy, and I have no doubt this project has been frustrating for commuters, particularly residents along La Cholla, as well as students and parents of the two schools—Ironwood Ridge High School and Wilson K-8 School—that have been affected by the detours and closures. It’s hard to visualize all the benefits a project like this will have when you’re just trying to get to school or work on time.
More about school in a moment, but the benefits will soon start to come into focus. Those include: a widened parkway-type north-south route similar to La Cañada Drive; all-weather crossings over major and minor washes; improved bicycle and pedestrian mobility; and wildlife crossings. Keep in mind, these improvements would not be possible without our partners, and we’re thankful for the Regional Transportation Authority and Pima County for their involvement and funding of this project. For project details, visit lachollaimprovements.info.
This project has not been without its challenges. Underground and overhead, various utilities (water, power, natural gas and communications) have been, or are in the process of being, relocated. The Town of Oro Valley’s Public Works staff has been working with the contractor, Hunter Contracting, and the utilities to coordinate these efforts. For the most part, the utility relocations are complete.
We have also been fortunate that heavy rain has not affected work on La Cholla. Drainage improvements are a major component of this project, and as you drive through the construction you’ll see four arches at various intervals that will elevate the roadway above the stormwater channel. These improvements will assist drivers and pedestrians, as it is common throughout our rainy season for the Oro Valley Police Department to close La Cholla during storms. These drainage improvements will help minimize the need to do that.
Presently, the contractor is busy working on the La Cholla/Glover intersection with the goal to reopen that intersection as near to the start of school as possible. Speaking of school, students will be returning back to school the first week of August, so we’d like to remind the community to please be cautious when driving as there will be an increase in the number of children walking and riding bikes. There will be some newly-licensed drivers headed back to school as well. Keep an eye out for them too.
The Oro Valley Police Department has provided the following safety tips:
You may not pass a school bus when it stops, displays the stop sign and flashing red lights. You must stop! This includes both directions of travel when a physical median is not present.
The school zone is 15 miles per hour. You must be at or below 15 miles per hour prior to entering the zone. The zone is marked by the first sign as you enter.
It is prohibited to pass another vehicle while in a school zone.
Please pay attention to the crossing guard’s directions and be prepared to stop.
School crosswalks require drivers to stop at the point a pedestrian enters into the crosswalk.
It is illegal to talk or text while driving in Oro Valley unless you use a hands-free device.
There will be more La Cholla-related closures in the coming months. In the next few weeks, West Cañada Hills Drive will be closed for an extended period of time and other closures will follow. To keep up to date on these closures, sign up for the town’s traffic alert e-notifications at www.orovalleyaz.gov or follow us on social media. And finally, while it’s safe to say you won’t always know what to expect on La Cholla between Tangerine and Overton, you can expect OVPD and other law enforcement agencies to stop you if you’re speeding. Remember, the speed limit is 25 mph through the construction zone, unless posted otherwise. And that’s no joke.
Joe Lunne is the Town of Oro Valley Public Information Officer.