On the Road Again

Your handy guide to the transportation projects you’ll want to avoid this year

Drivers should expect improved conditions along the route to Phoenix once the Arizona Department of Transportation completes two widening projects in the Casa Grande area.
Drivers should expect improved conditions along the route to Phoenix once the Arizona Department of Transportation completes two widening projects in the Casa Grande area.

While Southern Arizona communities have a long list of potential road improvements, at least some of the needed work is getting done and more is scheduled for the new year. Here's a roundup of the major projects on the 2019 horizon.

The City of Tucson is wrapping up two major road projects by the end of this year. The Grant Road Improvement Project completed a section from Stone Avenue to Park Avenue in November. The road was widened to six lanes with accompanying bike lanes, streetscape and sidewalk improvements.

In addition, a new bridge on Houghton Road over the Union Pacific Railroad will be finished in January. The project, also funded by the RTA plan, is part of a larger corridor spanning 13 miles that will be widened to six lanes with a median, drainage improvements, bus pullouts and pedestrian and bicycle accommodations. Three of the six segments have already been completed. Once the bridge is finished, construction will begin in January to finish off the road widening up to Interstate-10.

Looking ahead into 2019, another phase of the Grant Road project will begin with a road-widening from Palo Verde Avenue to Swan Road.

The Regional Transportation Authority plan will bring a lot more construction to our major roadways as well.

The Downtown Links project, a four-lane road north of the Union Pacific Railroad that would connect Barraza-Aviation Parkway to I-10, was scheduled to begin construction this year but was halted because construction bids were way over budget. Michael Graham, the city's Department of Transportation spokesperson, said they will be going back out to bid in 2019. The road work includes an upgrade to critical drainage systems and a new underpass and an overpass for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.

The Broadway Boulevard Corridor will see improvements from Euclid Avenue to Country Club Road in the summer of 2019. The project will take about a year and will widen this section to six lanes across with a median, bike lanes, sidewalks and bus pullouts.

Also on Broadway further to the east, crews began the process of widening a section from Camino Seco Road to Houghton Road to four lanes with a median in November. Officials estimate it will take about 16 months total. The project will also include drainage improvements, sidewalks on both sides, new LED streetlights and native landscaping.

On 22nd Street from Kino Parkway to Tucson Boulevard, construction crews will widen the road to six lanes with drainage improvements, street lighting, sidewalks, bike paths and new landscaping. This will include a new bridge over the Union Pacific Railroad. Residential buildings were acquired, vacated and demolished in advance of construction on the north side of 22nd just east of the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge, according to the project website.

In addition to the RTA projects, the city is continuing to fix roads with dollars from a temporary half-cent sales tax that was approved by voters in 2017. The following areas will be receiving repair this upcoming year:

• January 2019: Starr Pass Boulevard from Lost Starr Drive to I-10 Frontage Road and La Cholla Boulevard from Starr Pass Boulevard to Ajo Way.

• February 2019: Congress Street from Silverbell Road to Grande Avenue and Speedway Boulevard from Painted Hills Road to Greasewood Road.

• Spring 2019: River Road from Oracle Road to First Avenue, Roger Road from First Avenue to Wilson Avenue and Runway Drive from Gardner Lane to Prince Road.

• Spring/Summer 2019: Liberty Bicycle Boulevard on Liberty Avenue from 44th Street to Los Reales Road.

• Fall 2019: Los Reales Road from Santa Clara Avenue to Nogales Highway, Sixth Avenue from Irvington Road to Illinois Street and Sixth Avenue from Benson Highway to Ajo Way.

Pima County will once again be going to the Arizona Legislature for some sort of avenue for increased road revenue, most likely through a reworking and extension of the Regional Transportation Authority's current mission to expand capacity, after the failure of a road-bond package last November. While that will depend on the kindness of state lawmakers, the county is continuing work on several projects in unincorporated areas:

• Just wrapping up is a widening of Cortaro Farms Road to four lanes between Camino de Oeste and Thornydale Road, which connects with a recently completed widening to four lanes of Thornydale Road between Cortaro Farms Road and Camino del Norte.

• Under construction is a widening of the county's Aerospace Parkway from Old Nogales Highway to the vicinity of World View Enterprises. This is part of the county's economic development plan to build more high-tech and logistics centers near Raytheon.

• Widening work to six lanes continues on Valencia Road between Wilmot and Kolb roads, with an estimated wrap in summer 2019.

• The county is continuing to widen Valencia Road to four lanes with bike lanes and a multi-use pathway for pedestrians between Wade Road and Ajo Way.

• Improvement work at the intersection of Drexel Road and Benson Highway is expected to wrap in summer 2019.

• The county is also using state Highway User Revenue Funds (primarily gas taxes and vehicle registration fees) to repave roads. Work is nearly done on Pontatoc Road between River and Sunrise roads and Hacienda del Sol between River and Sunrise roads.

The Arizona Department of Transportation is wrapping up work on the Ina Road bridge over I-10 this year—just in time to start a new major bridge just a few miles south, at Ruthrauff Road.

The Ina Road bridge, expected to wrap in the spring, will widen I-10 to three lanes in each direction and lower the I-10 to run beneath Ina Road.

Construction bids for the Ruthrauff Road traffic interchange are expected in spring 2019, with construction on the project expected to being in summer 2019.

The project will lower I-10 to go beneath Ruthrauff Road, and raise Ruthrauff Road to go over Davis Avenue/Highway Drive, the Union Pacific Railroad and I-10. In addition, both streets will be widened, with I-10 widening to four lanes in each direction and Ruthrauff Road widening to two lanes in each direction. Work is scheduled to last for up to 24 months, lasting from 2019 into 2021. While all traffic from Ruthrauff Road will close at I-10, business access will be maintained throughout the project.

Between Tucson and Phoenix, the construction continues as always. The Department of Transportation is currently widening I-10 in the Casa Grande to Tucson to six lanes—three lanes in each direction. This will add one lane in each direction

The Department of Transportation has divided Ajo adjacent to the median, with a concrete barrier in the middle, also creating new bridges over Jimmie Kerr Boulevard. The $36.6 million project is scheduled for completion by summer 2019.

Elsewhere on that stretch of I-10, ADOT recently opened new westbound lanes in the Picacho Peak area from milepost 213 to milepost 209 near Eloy. Eastbound traffic will move to the new pavement in January, separated by concrete barrier while temporarily sharing what eventually will be pavement only for westbound traffic. Eastbound drivers are scheduled to get their own new lanes in spring 2019.

Renovations are being made in Nogales on the road connecting the Mariposa Port of Entry, primarily used for commercial vehicles, with Interstate 19. This project will include new ramps connecting State Route 189 with I-19, as well as a bridge over Frank Reed Road near Nogales High School.

The Department of Transportation has divided Ajo Way construction into two phases. Construction on Ajo Way involves widening a segment of Ajo Way between Valencia and Kinney roads to improve safety and traffic flow. Intersections with Camino Verde, Tucson Estates Parkway and Old Ajo Highway are being realigned. There will also be new drainage features and "low-maintenance" landscaping.

ADOT completed phase one of construction on Ajo Way in spring 2018, and began work on phase two in summer 2018. Phase two of this construction includes a new bridge being built over the Santa Cruz River. Phase two of construction is expected to be completed in January 2020.

The Town of Marana will be celebrating the completion of the Ina Road/Interstate 10 interchange this spring, along with a makeover of Ina Road itself.

Mo El-Ali, who serves as the director of Marana's Public Works Department, highlighted some of the biggest improvements on the horizon in 2019.

Topping the list for El-Ali is the series of improvements made along Ina Road, including the new bridge that spans the lanes of I-10, as well as the Union Pacific tracks next to the roadway.

There's also the bridge built by the consortium of the Arizona Department of Transportation, his department and the Regional Transit Authority.

The Town of Marana budgeted $6.9 million to the Santa Cruz bridge development in the 2019 fiscal year, along with $4.3 million for the Ina Road re-pavement project that runs from Ulene Place and the Cañada del Oro Wash.

For El-Ali, the Ina Road project, as well as the $307,000 re-pavement project along Avra Valley Road from Sanders Road to the town's western limits and the $3.9 million sidewalk addition from Coachline Boulevard Twin Peaks Road are the most important efforts for residents.

"Good roads are critical to Marana's economy and it has a variety of infrastructure needs," El-Ali said. "It's going to be safe, and safe roads connect people to work, to schools, doctors' offices, grocery stores, places that are vital to everyone's well-being. So, they're essential."

El-Ali's department is tasked with maintaining and improving the 520 lane miles of road in the Pima County town.

The Town of Marana repaved 66 lane miles of road in 2018, according to El-Ali, comprising 13 percent of the town's total roadway.

Residents can expect further improvements, in the form of repaving and adding ADA-compliant ramps along Gladden Farms Road (2020) and a new four-way intersection with stop lights at Arizona Pavilion and the Walmart parking lot entrance.

Last October, Oro Valley broke ground on a project that will widen La Cholla to four lanes from Overton to Tangerine roads.

The work currently underway is the second phase of a greater project to widen and improve La Cholla beginning northbound from Magee Road, and includes widening to four lanes, improved drainage, multi-use paths and ADA accessibility, wildlife crossings and landscaped medians. The planning and design process for the overall project began back in 2009.

Of the 3.5 miles of work left to be completed, roughly 80 percent of the road lies within town limits, while the remainder is in unincorporated Pima County. Because most of the $20 million project will take place within the town, Oro Valley will oversee the work. Pima County will chip in more than $3 million. Oro Valley is providing nearly $2 million, with the remainder covered by the Regional Transportation Authority.

Oro Valley Town Engineer Paul Keesler said the work will allow the road to function as a proper regional relief for the traffic that ordinarily comes from Interstate 10 towards the City of Tucson and the northern part of the metro area. Instead of using North Thornydale, La Cañada or Oracle Roads, Keesler said drivers will benefit from a four-lane roadway along La Cholla when planning their north/south trips.

"The beauty of La Cholla is that it is somewhat between La Cañada and Thornydale," Keesler said. "It gives that other route down into the city, and actually into some industrial areas."

Just a few miles down the road, the Town of Oro Valley is also debating the future of one of its most-used four-stops in the form of potential intersection improvements at North La Cañada Drive and West Moore Road.

According to Keesler, the town's interest in the intersection stems from requests sent in by area residents concerned over the amount of vehicle collisions at the four-way stop. According to town data provided from between 2012 and 2016, a dozen collisions occurred at the intersection, a handful of which were caused by drivers failing to stop at one of the four stop signs.

Town Manager Mary Jacobs is still going over data and resident feedback before preparing her recommendation for council, though she told Tucson Local Media to expect a decision to be made in the coming weeks so work can begin.

If a signal is chosen for the intersection, the associated price tag is roughly $700,000, while the roundabout would cost about $1 million to construct.

Aside from those projects, Keesler said that drivers should be aware that pavement preservation work will begin once the temperature warms back up.

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