Interchange plans

A near-standing room only crowd of approximately 125 individuals filled a room at Ellie Towne Flowing Wells Community Center last week to voice their opinions at an Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) public hearing on the Interstate 10/Ina Road Traffic Interchange to Ruthrauff Road Traffic Interchange Study.

ADOT, in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration, is evaluating improvements to Interstate 10 from Ina to Ruthrauff roads that would include reconstruction of I-10 to provide five lanes of travel in each direction, four of which would be built initially; grade-separated crossroads at the Union Pacific Railroad at Ina, Sunset and Ruthrauff roads; and replacement of the I-10 bridges over Orange Grove Road, Canada Del Oro Wash and Rillito Creek.

The project area is located in three municipal jurisdictions — Pima County, the City of Tucson and the Town of Marana.

The purpose of the project, said Linda Ritter, ADOT's senior community relations officer, is to increase the traffic capacity and circulation on I-10 between Ina and Ruthrauff roads.

Mick Hont, ADOT's Tucson assistant district engineer, said the project's study area starts a half-mile west of the Ina Road interchange and runs to one-half mile east of the Ruthrauff Road interchange.

"The project is being developed to meet existing and future, (that is 2040), traffic demands and improve current and future operations," Hont said. "It meets all current design standards and eliminates vehicle-train conflicts at the Ina Road and Ruthrauff Road crossroads, as well as improves emergency vehicle response times."

Hont added that the project meets the planning objectives identified in ADOT's 1993 General plan and the Regional Transportation Authority's (RTA) 2006 voter-approved Regional Transportation Plan.

Questions from the audience were wide ranging, from queries about the grade-separated interchanges at Ina and Ruthrauff roads, to the traffic loop systems that will accompany those interchanges, to the length of time construction will take and the order of construction in various areas.

Mike Bertram, project engineer for HDR Engineering, which is consulting with ADOT on the project, said the project would be constructed in three phases with the Ruthrauff Road interchange and accompanying section of I-10 being done first, from 2015 to 2017; then the Ina Road interchange and a section of I-10 from 2016 to 2018, and finally the section of I-10 from Orange Grove Road to Sunset Road from 2018 to 2020.

Bertran noted that the current Ina Road interchange will remain open while the new Ruthrauff Road grade-separated interchange is being built so that two major I-10 interchanges are not closed at the same time.

New traffic loops will be built along with the two grade-separated interchanges, Bertram pointed out, on both the interchanges' east and west sides. The traffic loops, built at grade (ground) level, are necessary because the traffic interchanges will rise approximately 24 feet over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and the newly-expanded I-10 that will be constructed at grade level.

Christine Donoghue, HDR Engineering's senior environmental planner, said that all public input will be included in the final Environmental Assessment developed for the project, which is expected to be issued later this summer. To be included in the project record, comments must be submitted to ADOT no later than July 6.

Donoghue noted that 14 acres of private and six acres of public land will have to be acquired for the project. Doing so, she said, will displace two residences, six vacant municipal buildings and 13 commercial structures. Of those commercial structures, six would be taken at the Ina Road interchange and seven at the Ruthrauff Road interchange. Relocation assistance will be provided by ADOT, she said.

In addition, ADOT expects to need partial acquisition of 42 properties along the project's boundaries.

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