Reconstruction of the five-mile stretch of Magee and Cortaro Farms roads between Thornydale and Oracle in the Northwest is expected to cost nearly $85 million, a consultant for the Pima County Department of Transportation told a gathering of more than 75 people last week.

That figure includes both "hard" construction costs as well as "soft" engineering and design expenses, Bill Schlesinger of the firm AECOM told the group.

Most of the money would come from Regional Transportation Authority voter-approved sales tax levies, along with some bond, impact and later federal funding. Money "looks like it's there," said Paul Bennett, project manager for the county transportation department.

Magee and Cortaro Farms would be rebuilt in three phases. The first covers the stretch from Mona Lisa to La Cañada, including the offset La Cholla intersections which are identified as the biggest bottleneck to east-west traffic (see related story, page 10). That phase is estimated to take up to two years at a cost of $37.36 million.

Thornydale to Mona Lisa would be built second, with an expected duration of two years at a cost of $28.8 million. La Cañada to Oracle Road would complete the project, taking up to 1-1/2 years at an expense of $18.28 million. The dollar figures include engineering and design, 25 percent for contingencies, utilities relocation, 1 percent for public art, right-of-way procurement, post-design services and construction administration.

Construction may begin in the first quarter of 2012.

"Why do you start in the middle?" one resident asked.

"We have identified Magee and La Cholla need the work first," Schlesinger responded.

Schlesinger said 15,000 to 20,000 vehicles per day generally use Cortaro Farms / Magee. In 2030, the year to which the project is designed, the roadway is expected to handle between 20,000 and 35,000 vehicles per day.

"What would happen if we build nothing?" Schlesinger asked. "As you might suspect, if we do nothing, the traffic gets really, really bad."

Cortaro Farms / Magee would be widened to four lanes with a center median, adjacent bike lanes and sidewalks, reconfiguring of the Magee-La Cholla intersection, channelizing of a segment of Carmack Wash, improvement to drainage, a new or augmented bridge over the Cañada del Oro Wash, and landscaping.

More than 75 people attended the hearing, which is a required, publicly noticed event to comply with federal environmental regulations. Comments on Cortaro / Magee are accepted through July 30.

Bennett said the agency wants to move quickly on Cortaro Farms / Magee "to take advantage of some of the low prices we're seeing on projects."

Nearby residents are concerned with "drivers cutting through neighborhoods during construction," one man said.

"Construction is a tough time," Schlesinger said. Reducing drive-throughs is "not easy. "I'm sure there is nothing we can do to absolutely prevent that from happening," he said.

To comment

Comments on the Cortaro Farms / Magee road improvement projects may be mailed, faxed or e-mailed by Friday, July 30. They may be mailed to Angie Brown, Gordley Design group, 2540 N. Tucson Blvd., Tucson, 85716; faxed to 520-327-4687; or e-mailed to Brown at

For more information on the project, visit

Jug handle remains solution of choice at Magee, La Cholla

Pima County is sticking with the "jug handle" solution to solve the offset alignment traffic flow woes at Magee and La Cholla north of Foothills Mall.

Four alternatives for aligning the east and west portions of Magee at La Cholla have been considered, with the "jug handle" alignment remaining the preferred choice, a consultant for the Pima County Department of Transportation told a public hearing assembled last week at Pima Community College's Northwest Campus.

In response to a question, Bill Schlesinger of the firm AECOM said any traffic delay with the jug handle solution would be "the least of any of the alternatives we looked at, and certainly way less" than leaving the intersection as it is.

One of the "big reasons" the jug handle was selected was to move the roadway away from a major subdivision near the intersection," he said. Yet the jug handle would sit on currently open space at Magee and La Cholla, and "citizens have expressed how important that open space is," Schlesinger said. "The jug handle is right in the middle."

As part of the Cortaro Farms / Magee road improvement project, access for pedestrians and people on horseback to and from the Carmack Wash would be protected.

"We are trying to, as much as possible, leave as much of the Carmack Wash intact as we can," Schlesinger said.

Plans to cross both major and minor washes along the roadway have been submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers for review and a permit. "We expect to have it in the next 35-40 days," Dawson said.

Mike Dawson, environmental consultant with EcoPlan Associates, said the five-mile segment of Cortaro Farms and Magee from Thornydale to Oracle contains "no archaeological or historical features at all, with the exception" of State Highway 77, the historically recognized Oracle Road.

There are no endangered species present. The west end of the project is considered a management area for the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl, though surveys did not find the birds.

Noise walls recommended for 7 of 22 locations along Magee

When a new, four-lane road is constructed, 22 locations along Cortaro Farms and Magee roads would exceed noise levels used as thresholds for sound-reducing mitigation, according to a consultant's study of the five-mile stretch of roadway.

Of those 22, seven would qualify for "reasonable and feasible" noise barriers, the report submitted by consulting firm AECOM indicates. Fifteen would not qualify because "the barrier would not be effective" due to driveways or other breaks; because the barrier would benefit "only a single, impacted receiver;" or because the cost per "benefited receiver" is more than $35,000, it says.

When anticipated roadway noise exceeds 66 decibels, Pima County studies the possibility of putting up walls to reduce noise. Federal rules do not allow credits for rubberized asphalt, which cuts road noise and is going to be used on the project.

As the project is finalized and designs adjusted, engineers would "re-evaluate the noise," said Mike Dawson, environmental consultant with EcoPlan Associates.

—Dave Perry

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