Ina is open. These words alone are enough to excite residents and businesses of northwest Tucson. For more than two years, from February 2017 to last Tuesday, April 16, access from Interstate 10 to West Ina Road was closed for construction. While Ina Road itself was never completely shut down, the closed off-ramps limited access to numerous northside businesses. But, with the “road closed” signs gone and through-traffic returning, multiple Ina Road businesses are celebrating.
“There’s events going on all up and down the street,” said Patrick Cooley, manager at AASTRO Transmission & Auto Repair’s Ina location. “The first year of the closure wasn’t too bad, but the second year was so much more difficult. When other construction started, the problems all compounded… Now that it’s open, I’d say excited is a good description.”
Not only is the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Ina Road Interchange project nearly finished, but so is the Town of Marana’s Ina Road Beautification project. The interchange project “required rerouting local street access to Interstate 10 to reconstruct a new interchange that stretches over the interstate and the Union Pacific railroad tracks.” The Beautification Project, done alongside the Interchange project, added “landscape, mill and pave, street light and traffic signal improvements” along Ina.
“Some of the businesses in there survived, but some did not,” said Rebecca Kososkie, Executive Vice President for the Marana Chamber of Commerce. “But one of the good things from the closure is that local businesses put together a kind of support group with each other. This brought local businesses closer together.”
To celebrate the reopening, the Town of Marana and local businesses are hosting an “Ina Road Celebration Weekend” on May 4 and 5. The celebration kicks off with an opening ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 4, with live music and food.
The opening ceremony begins at the Lowe’s parking lot, 4075 W. Ina Road, with a cake cutting, rather than a ribbon cutting. According to Kososkie, this is because ribbon cuttings signify the completion of construction, whereas Ina Road still has a bit more work to be done. After the opening ceremony, a weekend-long business block party will host celebrations and sales at participating business locations throughout Ina Road.
“There’s a lot of things going on in the Ina Road corridor that day, and hopefully that whole weekend,” Kososkie said. “We’re trying to get people out and about, because some people got in the habit of not taking Ina. The effects of the closure could be felt as much as a year after the opening, so we’re trying to continually promote those stores.”
Dewey Zufelt, organizer of the Ina Road steering committee and manager at ChickeNuevo, said many local business owners couldn’t do more than pray when the construction began.
“There wasn’t too much we could do to prepare,” Zufelt said. “Our business dropped off by about 60 to 65 percent. It was uncomfortable for people to come down because of all the roadblocks and one-ways. But people are returning… All the merchants are getting together and we’re hoping all of this will create enough excitement to bring the customers back, because they’ve been gone for about two years.”
The I-10 to Ina Road closure impacted larger chain stores that rely on passing-through customers, including a Jack in the Box and a Hooters, both of which closed after construction commenced. But local businesses fled as well, such as Miss Saigon, and ChickeNuevo, which moved farther down Ina away from the construction.
Many local, family-owned businesses survived the construction thanks to a combination of dedicated customers and social media. Some residents even made efforts to do more local shopping to help stores through the construction.
“We were expecting a decrease in traffic, but were hoping otherwise,” Cooley said. “We let customers know what was coming up. We had maps on our webpage to let people know how to get to the store around the construction.”
Other weekend celebrations include a barbeque and car show co-hosted by local mechanics: AASTRO, Paul’s Auto Repair, and Spectrum Auto Collision. The show will host over 40 classic and modern cars, and the business owners will be serving up food until they run out.
“We’re gonna make some noise for sure,” Cooley said.