Last Wednesday, the Oro Valley Town Council approved a contract to buy 1.6 acres of land in Rancho Vistoso that would serve as a park-and-ride facility.

When built, the park-and-ride will have a 100-car parking capacity. Commuters could catch one of two planned Sun Tran express route buses and a yet-to-be established Oro Valley circulator.

“I think it’s going to be significant,” said Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis.

The mayor said escalating gas prices, in part, have helped fuel community interest in commuting alternatives.

The Regional Transportation Authority, the 2006 voter-approved transportation improvement plan, funded the $702,663 land purchase.

A spokesman for Sun Tran said the transit system plans to provide service between the park-and-ride and Raytheon on Tucson’s south side, and another route that would serve downtown Tucson.

Both express route lines would make three morning and three evening trips, with limited stops along the way.

Service times for the Sun Tran routes have not been determined. Sun Tran officials plan to hold a public meeting, possibly in accord with an Oro Valley council meeting, to field public input on the details of the proposed transit stops.

The proposed Oro Valley circulator — an RTA-funded, locally run transit service — would operate on a loop throughout the town.

“We’re working hard with the RTA to come up with a circulator plan to bring public transportation in to support the area,” Loomis said.

RTA also intends to support similar circulator systems in Marana and Sahuarita.

Town documents say that the town’s needs-based Coyote Run transit system could also serve the facility. The same records say that when completed, the transit center will have covered commuter waiting areas.

Town engineering department officials plan to make construction of the facility a priority and estimate a completion date of February 2009.

The property, which sits near the intersection of Rancho Vistoso Boulevard and Vistoso Commerce Loop, is not currently in use. The land sits across Rancho Vistoso Boulevard from the town’s new municipal operations center and abuts Vistoso Memorial Chapel, the recently completed funeral home and crematorium.

An appraisal of the property completed in November estimated the land’s value at $684,646.

Overland Vistoso Limited Partnership owns the land. Overland is a partnership with Ready Two Corporation, whose officers David Mehl and W. James Harrison run the real estate development firm Cottonwood Properties.

Mayor Loomis said construction of the park-and-ride would likely begin immediately after the deal is finalized, possible within a month.

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