Bicyclists in Pima County have a pair of new bridges to ride after the county’s $5.8 million El Corazon project was completed earlier this month.
The project includes two new bridges that connect the Santa Cruz and Cañada del Oro washes with the Rillito while also moving the path away from traffic on Interstate 10.
John Spiker, Pima County’s flood control civil engineer manager, said the department moved nearly two miles of soil cement to protect the nearby quarry from flooding, while also providing a scenic view for bicyclists.
Spiker also discussed the county’s decision to complete the construction project now as a matter of safety, both for those on the path and for the stability of the riverbed itself.
“Primarily, we were protecting the existing earthen Orange Grove Pit bank, and ultimately the I-10 frontage road from Santa Cruz River erosion with soil cement bank protection,” Spiker said. “This work was connecting existing soil cement bank infrastructure from the Rillito River and the CDO Wash, filling in the gap.”
Spiker said part of the county’s timing had to do with looming construction on the Interstate, between Ina and Camino del Cerro.
That construction loomed large, as it will force more traffic onto the frontage roads, which would have been an impediment for bicyclists.
“This work would force the temporary Loop crossing on the frontage road to go away while ADOT uses the entirety of the frontage road for I-10 traffic,” Spiker said. “The two pedestrian bridges, one over the Rillito and one over the CDO, allows Loop users continuous use of the Santa Cruz River Park while I-10 goes into construction.”
Spiker is confident that the new Loop arrangement will keep cyclists well away from four-wheeled traffic, which is a win for all involved.
“With their trucks coming and going until then, it’s safer to keep foot and bike traffic on the along the frontage road alignment,” Spiker said. “The move should coincide with the Arizona Transportation Department’s plans to upgrade that section of the interstate.”
The adjacent quarry, which is used by CalPortland, will be turned over to the County after the company’s lease ends in 2024, Spiker said.
That quarry land will eventually be reclaimed and repurposed as open space or for future development, Spiker said, though no plans have been released for the plot of land.
For more information on the El Corazon Project, go to webcms.pima.gov.