Monday's Twin Peaks Interchange groundbreaking ceremony was no gilded-shovel, ounce of dirt affair.

When the time came, one of Pulice Construction's employees fired up the Caterpillar 330L track excavator, and took a big-bucket bite of dark soil off the construction site.

The road project has been 15 years in the making, town of Marana officials figured, so the $50.5 million extension across the Santa Cruz River, Interstate 10 and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks needed a resounding start.

"It's an historic and momentous day for Marana and our region," Town Manager Gilbert Davidson told an audience of about 75, among them Marana Town Council and city officials, Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis, former Marana Mayor Ora Mae Harn, Tim Bee of Gov. Jan Brewer's office, and many others at the current terminus of Twin Peaks Road.

"It's been a long time coming," said Mayor Ed Honea. "It's going to be a great asset to our community."

Honea, who also chairs the Regional Transportation Authority board, said "10 different entities, eight of which are government" have been involved in "trying to get this project done." They range from Pima County Flood Control to the Regional Transportation Authority, from the Arizona Department of Transportation to the Army Corps of Engineers. Add in the Union Pacific Railroad, nearby landowners and developers, and Twin Peaks was no simple feat.

Federal earmarks helped, too, the mayor said. "A lot of people don't like that word, but I do today, because they helped get this project done."

Gary Hayes, RTA executive director, said Twin Peaks is "the first major project we're funding" with RTA sales tax dollars approved by voters three years ago this Saturday, May 16.

"We've been collecting a lot of money, roughly $200 million," and to date RTA has spent a third of it on smaller projects, improved transit service and more.

"The real backbone of the plan is 35 major corridor projects," Hayes said. "This is the first groundbreaking of all of those projects."

Hayes and Honea unveiled a sign for Twin Peaks, with its largest words "Delivering our promise to you."

Si Schorr, the Tucson attorney who sits on the state's transportation board, remembered when he was an attorney with a company that owned Continental Ranch. Nearly 40 years ago, he was asked what to do about the property.

"It's nice to see something you planned … actually come to fruition," Schorr said. He has long believed it best to be "associated with people who have persistence. Marana had persistence, determination, and never gave up."

Honea said Town Engineer Keith Brann "has really been the front man" for Marana. And Barbara Johnson contributed to the cause as well. Bee lauded Steve Huffman, Marana's intergovernmental affairs representative, who served with Bee in the Legislature and helped usher RTA legislation through that body. Bee said Brewer is "thankful for the collaboration" among stakeholders.

"Tomorrow, we get to start asking the famous construction question, 'when does this project get finished?'" Davidson said.

It's 18 months in Davidson's view, two years in the perspective of ADOT Tucson district engineer Greg Gentsch.

"From this point, we refer all questions and complaints back to ADOT," Davidson quipped. And then, in seriousness, "it'll transform this area of our community, and add tremendous value."

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