Fun With the Freeway

The latest Interstate 10 project near Prince Road has created hassles for some—and amusement for others

The view from Ken Pausen and Sylas Marner's retirement spot is going through a daily metamorphosis. And they couldn't be happier about it.

The two men are among dozens of people who call the Prince of Tucson RV Park home. The longstanding park, with a mix of full- and part-time residents, is nestled on the west side of Interstate 10 at Prince Road. It's mostly a quiet and unassuming place where not much happens. Well, at least it was that way until last fall, when the latest project to widen Interstate 10 got under way.

Instead of having vehicles on the freeway whipping by the east side of their homes, Prince of Tucson residents will soon have motorists on both sides, thanks to the new, extended interchange that spills out behind their community.

Disruptive? Yes. Fun to watch get built? Definitely, Pausen and Marner said.

"We've had a lot of entertainment the last few months," Pausen said last week, while he and Marner leaned against a chain-link fence separating them from construction that will have Prince Road going over I-10 when work is finished in late 2013.

On this day, workers from Phoenix-based Pulice Construction were installing large, concrete side panels onto a ramp area, with Pausen, Marner and other "resident supervisors," as they call themselves, watching with rapt attention.

Marner, like many others, has been using a camera to chronicle the work around the park, which is currently split in half by the construction of a box culvert through the middle.

"I probably have about 100 pictures," Marner said.

While some residents have found enjoyment in watching the construction, it is causing headaches for many local businesses. However, it's a necessary evil, said Linda Ritter, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Transportation.

"We've always been focused on the businesses, and we are with this project as well," Ritter said. "We've been working (with them for) at least two years before the project began last fall. We want to prepare them; we want them to be aware of the project. The more information they have, the better off they are."

The preparation has included outreach meetings, a monthly newsletter and email updates. ADOT does that with many of its projects, just as it did when I-10 was widened through downtown Tucson, she said.

The closure of Prince beneath I-10 in early March meant that many people who work on the west side of the freeway and use the bus to get there were stuck. Sun Tran Route 17 is popular with employees of Convergys, a call center northwest of the construction zone, but with the underpass closed, workers who got off the bus at Prince and Romero roads wouldn't be able to walk the rest of the way.

Convergys representatives brought up that concern during meetings with ADOT prior to construction, resulting in ADOT setting up a free shuttle that loops around the construction zone via Ruthrauff Road to the north, and Miracle Mile to the south during peak-use hours on weekdays and Saturdays.

"If we didn't have the shuttle, then those folks who rely on public transportation would have to think about different ways of getting to work," said Dan McKelvy, a spokesman for the Convergys Tucson office, which employs 800. "And they might think about working somewhere else."

The shuttle—which isn't costing Convergys a penny—will remain in place until the project is completed, McKelvy said. Convergys recruiters are using that information as they set up job fairs to hire an additional 200 workers this summer.

Ritter said the shuttle is an example of the individualized assistance that ADOT provides for affected businesses during construction projects. ADOT also provides tips on how to best market a business during the disruption, though it is forbidden from paying for any advertising.

"We cannot provide them with any kind of compensation; it's something that's not allowed," she said.

Safety issues are also regularly addressed, said Ritter, such as the tendency of some Prince of Tucson residents to walk their dogs too close to the construction work.

"We've posted some fliers (in the RV park) to make sure people are safe," Ritter said. "We have been working with them extensively. When they have a problem, we work with them."

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