Ina Road Drone Photo

For more than two years, traffic along West Ina Road had to find another way on and off Interstate 10. With the Ina Road Interchange once again open, businesses are experiencing a boost.

Signed, sealed, delivered—the new Ina Road interchange is yours. 

After more than two years of construction, the Ina Road revamp at Interstate 10 is now open, although workers are completing some final details.

Ruthrauff Road at I-10 is next on the list for construction, but that project won’t begin until September.  

The $128 million project at Ina Road had a handful of goals: widen I-10 to three lanes in each direction at the interchange; expand a 1.6-mile stretch of Ina Road to two lanes from North Silverbell Road to North Camino De La Cruz, which is just east of the freeway; create new bridges to carry Ina Road over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks; and create two new bridges over the Santa Cruz River. The project also lowered I-10 at Ina Road and called for renovation to the corresponding frontage roads.

The Arizona Department of Transportation managed the project. 

Tom Herrmann, public information officer at ADOT, said although this type of undertaking is “daunting” it was “tremendously important” for two main reasons: the exponential growth in the Town of Marana, and to create a safer throughway.

“We can look back now and think it was a lot of hard work, but it was absolutely worth it from our perspective,” Herrmann said. “We hope the community feels the same way.”

And ADOT, he said, was not the lone entity working to improve the area. Marana concurrently launched a beautification effort at the Ina Road interchange, which included additional road resurfacing, safety improvements and landscaping.

“And the combination is we have a much better road and a better opportunity for the area to grow and for drivers to safely commute,” Herrmann said.

But weathering the storm of extensive road closures and massive delays certainly stressed local businesses.

Even though Bookmans Northwest, located at 3733 W. Ina Road, was considered a business that fell outside of the area directly affected by the construction, the local retailer felt the financial pinch during the last two years. 

As construction got underway in February 2017, the mainstay book seller saw a decrease in sales between 5 and 8 percent, said Kaia Pfaffl, the store manager.

She said their sales plummeted by as much as 20 percent when the road improvements migrated east to the corner of Ina and Thornydale roads, the intersection where Bookmans lives.

Fortunately that leg of the road repairs only lasted a few weeks, Pfaffl said. 

“We’ve been really lucky, because a lot of the business to the west of Thornydale have been affected in a major way,” she said. 

Their employees got used to giving customers directions without using the Ina Road exit, and Bookmans didn’t receive too many complaints about the inconvenience of taking an alternative route.

“Plus it went on for so long that people adjusted,” she said. 

Pfaffl said she’s enthralled to have Ina Road up and running again. People tend to have a negative attitude about road repairs, she said, so they’ll completely avoid a location.

“And I’m really hoping that once the news gets out that the construction is over people will be more excited to come to the area, including Bookmans,” she said.    

Herrmann said the two bridges that carry Ina Road over the Santa Cruz River west of the interstate have doubled the capacity for traffic, which will set up the area for future development as well as relieve congestion. It will most likely alleviate traffic at the Cortaro Road bridge as it spans the riverbed, by offering drivers an alternative route, he added. The expanded bridges will be fully operational in roughly six weeks.  

Since Marana was incorporated 42 years ago, the town has expanded from 10 to 118 square miles, according to the Pima Association of Governments. From 1990 to 2000, the town swelled by 520 percent, making it the fastest growing municipality in Arizona. And during the following decade, which ended in 2010, the town grew by another 158 percent. 

And local residents are also flocking to Oro Valley. Tucson’s northern neighbor grew from 2.6 to 35 square miles since 1974. 

Of Pima County’s 980,263 residents, Marana has 45,747 people and Oro Valley has 43,565 people. Both towns are more than seven times the size of the City of South Tucson, which has 5,652 people, according to U.S. Census data from 2010.  

The Ina Road revamp was funded by PAG, the Federal Highway Administration and the Regional Transportation Authority. 

Marana contributed $7.9 million toward the two bridges that now carry Ina Road over the Santa Cruz just west of the freeway. 

On May 4 and 5, Marana will host an Ina Road reopening celebration at Lowe’s Home Improvement in order to welcome the community back to the area.

But similar to taxes, local road construction is unavoidable.  

Come fall, commuters and residents alike can expect a similar two-year construction project to kick off on Ruthrauff Road at the freeway. Although the project is still out for bids, the estimated construction cost is $86-$88 million. This funding was allocated under the statewide five-year road construction plan, which was approved by ADOT’s board in June. This project will be funded by a coalition of government agencies, with PAG shouldering most of the burden.

When completed, the Ruthrauff renovation will bridge the road over the interstate and railroad tracks.    

There is not any work happening west of I-10 where Ruthrauff becomes W. El Camino Del Cerro, so the venture may take less than two years to complete, Herrmann said.

Since the Ruthrauff project mirrors the construction at Ina Road, motorist can expect similar delays and access. So when construction starts, drivers will have access to Ruthrauff Road up to I-10, but will not be able to access the freeway. 

ADOT’s community relations group and the RTA will be in contact with businesses along Ruthrauff as the project progresses, Herrmann said.

Considering ADOT’s recent track record, Herrmann said he trusts that local residents will be more patient when they break ground next.

“I hope people do look and say Ina, Prince and Twin Peaks—three for three with projects where the disruption to the community was kept to a minimum,” he said. 

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