Let's Fill the Streetcar
December 12, 2018 - A Sun Link streetcar vehicle can carry about 148 passengers. Imagine how many toys it can fit onboard! Let’s find out this Friday, Dec. 14. The Regional Transportation Authority is collecting new and unwrapped toys for children who live in the most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in the Tucson metro area.
The toys will be collected in a parked streetcar on 8th Street just west of Fourth Avenue from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. The toys will go to the Miracle on 31st Street charity for children. Miracle on 31st Street hosts a holiday party for children every year. This is the 48th year of the event.
If you stop by between 4 p.m. and 5:30, you can enjoy the sounds of the Salpointe and Canyon del Oro high school choirs and the CDO pep band. If you can’t stay, volunteers will unload toys from your vehicle. You don’t even need to get out of the car.
Previous RTA News stories:
December 6, 2018 - A new traffic signal timing system is helping northwest side commuters reach their destinations just a little bit sooner. The Arizona Department of Transportation installed an adaptive signal timing system on Oracle Road last summer. It adjusts the timing of traffic signals based on the number of vehicles on the road.
Early results of how it’s working are in, and they look good. Travel times between Tangerine Road and Rudasill Road have been reduced by about 10 percent. That’s two minutes off your morning commute time along the 8.5-mile stretch.
ADOT traffic engineer James Gomes describes how it works: “Sensors on the corridor provide information about the speed and volume of traffic on the road. The software uses that data to send information to each traffic signal along the route and adjust the signal timing to accommodate the traffic demand we’re experiencing at the time.”
And there is a bonus; more drivers are going the speed limit now that signals are timed for the posted speed.
Funding for this first-of-its-kind signal timing system in Pima County comes from the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Regional Transportation Authority.
November 29, 2018 - Work on Houghton Road over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks is about to end, while the next phase is set to begin. Crews are finishing up work on brand new twin bridges over the tracks. City of Tucson project managers expect to open all three lanes of the northbound bridge and one lane of the southbound bridge in mid-December.
Why only one lane? There is a good reason. It’s because work on the one-and-a-half-mile section of Houghton Road from the railroad tracks to Interstate 10 will begin soon. Tucson Department of Transportation Public Information officer Michael Graham said it’s a safety issue. We do not want three lanes of southbound traffic to have to merge into one at the bottom of the bridge.” The improvements are part of the voter-approved Regional Transportation Authority’s 20-year plan to widen Houghton Road from Tanque Verde to I-10.
Along with additional travel lanes, there are bike lanes, multi-use paths, bus pullouts, drainage features and landscaping all along the corridor.
The next phase from the railroad tracks to I-10 is expected to begin in January 2019.
November 21, 2018 - One of the busiest shopping days of the year is coming up this week. If you are planning to head out for some holiday deals, you might consider letting someone else do the driving. Sun Tran and Sun Express bus routes, along with Sun Shuttle neighborhood service and the Sun Link streetcar, will take to you many retail centers across the region. When you take transit, you don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot, and you help reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
The Regional Transportation Authority funds expanded transit, including express routes, the shuttle and the streetcar. Also, major corridor projects such as Houghton Road and the I-10/Twin Peaks Interchange have contributed to economic development, giving us more choices of where to eat, shop and explore.
If you are headed into town this weekend, you may ride the streetcar for free on Saturday thanks to sponsors Main Gate Square, Fourth Avenue Merchants Association, Downtown Tucson Partnership, Mercado District and the University of Arizona. There are 23 stops along the route with access to more than 250 shops and restaurants.
November 14, 2018 - On a recent warm November afternoon, drivers along East Broadway Boulevard from Camino Seco to Houghton Road seemed unfazed by all the construction work around them.
Improvements to the two-mile section of roadway began in September. When the 16-month long construction project is completed, drivers, pedestrians and cyclists will enjoy a safer and much improved Broadway Boulevard.
The road will be widened to four lanes with a raised median, drainage features (so rainwater goes under the road), bike lanes, sidewalks and public art. City of Tucson Project Manager Greg Orsini said, “The before and after on Broadway East will be night and day.The roadway and all its features are going to be SO much better for its users after the construction is complete. Safer, more efficient, visually attractive. And what the people really care about: a much smoother ride.”
The contractor put down temporary asphalt on the north side of Broadway Boulevard from Camino Seco to Harrison Road last week. Traffic in both directions is now using the temporary road while workers make drainage improvements and install new waterline, curb, sidewalk and landscaping along the south side of Broadway Boulevard. This traffic shift is scheduled to be in place through February 2019.
November 7, 2018 - You may have more options than you think when it comes to getting to work or school. The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) plan includes expanded transit options that may help you save money and wear and tear on your car.
The RTA has made more than 100 improvements to the regional park-and-ride system, including six parking lots just for commuters who do not live near a route but want to take advantage of transit. You can park in one of the conveniently located park-and-ride lots and catch the bus.
The perks are numerous: free parking, savings on gas and time to relax while you commute. And then there are benefits for the community: fewer cars on the road and a reduced need for parking.
Not familiar with park-and-ride locations? Check out the park-and-ride map on the RTA website.
October 31, 2018 - Neighbors, business owners and construction partners are celebrating a sweet milestone on Grant Road: the completion of phase 2 from Stone Avenue to Park Avenue. Dozens of people gathered on the southeast corner of Grant Road and Sixth Avenue Tuesday morning for the official completion of the project.
If you haven’t used Grant Road in a while, you will notice a big difference. Traffic keeps moving along with the addition of indirect left turns at Stone and First avenues. You’ll find new access to local businesses, signalized bike and pedestrian crossings, shade structures, sidewalks, drainage features and bus shelters.
Voters approved Grant Road improvements and a half-cent excise tax to fund Regional Transportation Authority projects in 2006. RTA Board Vice Chair Mike Hammond said, “These projects are remembered most by the community for their ability to help people safely and efficiently reach their destinations … We should celebrate the efforts of everyone involved in delivering these projects.”
The Regional Transportation Authority is a special taxing district within Pima County with a mission to deliver transportation projects that improve our region’s mobility, safety and economic vitality.
The City of Tucson is managing the construction of the Grant Road project, which is the largest roadway corridor funded in the RTA plan. The full project is being built in phases between Oracle and Swan roads over the life of the 20-year plan.
October 25, 2018 - A three and a half mile stretch of La Cholla Boulevard is getting a whole new look, and the future product will make drivers, pedestrians and cyclists see a major improvement. The Regional Transportation Authority, Town of Oro Valley and Pima County leaders gathered for a groundbreaking celebration on Wednesday, October 24.
Crews will begin actual construction on a new and improved La Cholla Boulevard from Overton Road to Tangerine Road in early 2019 when utility relocations are complete. The voter-approved RTA project will include two through lanes of traffic in each direction, bike lanes, a multi-use path and drainage structures that will provide all-weather access for commuters. Oro Valley Public Works Director Paul Keesler says those drainages will provide safer crossings for wildlife. “Another important feature for all of our modern road projects is that we upsize our drainage facilities. In fact, we will have four new medium-sized wildlife crossings underneath La Cholla incorporated with the drainage.”
The project runs across two jurisdictions, Oro Valley and Pima County. RTA Board Chair and Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath summed up the success of the RTA saying, “We can’t do this without a strong partnership.” You may stay up to date on the La Cholla Boulevard project website: www.lachollaimprovements.info.
October 17, 2018 - Transportation requires planning far into the future, and the newly formed Pima Association of Governments and Regional Transportation Authority Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) is ready for the task. The CAC is getting started on the development of a draft RTA continuation plan.
Committee member Bruce Wright is looking forward to the next step in advancing our region’s transportation system. He says, “Transportation is at the heart of a livable and smart community. People deal with it every day, whether they are driving their own car or using the bus system. The ability for people to live their lives is impacted by transportation every single day.”
The 35-member committee will help identify transportation priorities for the region that includes eastern Pima County. They will also weigh in on development of a continuation plan for the RTA’s half-cent excise tax and future RTA projects. The current RTA plan that voters in the RTA’s special taxing district approved in 2006 has delivered more than 800 transportation projects, with more to come.
Committee Co-Chair Carolyn Campbell says people need to make choices about how they want to get around our community. “We have a responsibility as a region to make structural changes to give people more access to those choices.”
The committee will meet quarterly for 24 to 30 months. The next meeting will be in January 2019. All meetings are held at Pima Association of Governments, 1 E. Broadway Blvd. Click here to meet the members and learn more about the committee and its work.
October 11, 2018 - The Houghton Road corridor is one of the largest improvement projects in the Regional Transportation Authority plan. The 13-mile long road stretches from Tanque Verde Road on the north to Interstate 10 on the south end.
When the Houghton family homesteaded east of Tucson in the 1930s, they probably never imagined the road that carries their name would carry thousands of commuters to their destinations every day.
Improvements on Houghton Road are being made in several phases over the 20-year life of the RTA plan. In sections where work has been completed, development has followed. City of Tucson project manager Michael Marietti says, “When this vital north-south, six-lane desert parkway is completed, it will act as an important backbone to support even more urbanized growth throughout the entire southeast region. It most likely will become one of the most desirable locations to live, work, shop and enjoy a wide variety of outdoor activities.”
Along with additional travel lanes, there will be bike lanes, multi-use paths, bus pullouts, drainage features and landscaping all along the corridor. Marietti says it is exciting to be part of the process. “Being a project manager for the City of Tucson brings with it quite a lot of challenging work. But as each of us shoulders the responsibilities of shepherding a major corridor project from a problem or an idea, up through the scoping, planning, designing, bidding and construction phases, we can easily see what we have accomplished come to fruition within the finished product, which is very satisfying to each of us.”
What is even more satisfying, Marietti says, is when people notice. “I recently asked an educator how she felt about one of our completed projects, and she said, ‘We love it.’ That speaks volumes to me regarding the successful results of our public service.”
A Houghton Road open house is set for Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 6 p.m. at Empire High School. For more information, please go to houghtonroad.info.
October 3, 2018 - A brand new sewer line is in place across Kolb Road south of Valencia Road. This is a big deal because it’s part of a major rebuild of the busy southeast side intersection.
Crews are wrapping up work on the new line and are now working on water lines, storm drains and catch basins. The forms of a new ramp are becoming apparent with medians, curb, and side slopes taking shape.
The City of Tucson is managing the Regional Transportation Authority project. It will continue the widening of Valencia Road, roughly one mile east and west of Kolb Road, and include bike lanes, sidewalks, drainage structures, lighting, traffic signals and landscaping.
The main feature of this RTA project will be a parkway-at-grade intersection (PAGI) to ease congestion and move vehicles more efficiently. The intersection will have ramps in place of left turns, as well as indirect left turns (U-turns). The design eliminates all left turns in the intersection to keep traffic flowing.
"The intersection will operate like a diamond interchange with a traffic signal in the middle. It is a very efficient way to handle traffic," said Jim DeGrood, deputy director of Pima Association of Governments, which manages the RTA.
City of Tucson project manager Blake Richards is looking forward to seeing the PAGI take shape. “The PAGI design is exciting because we have the opportunity to add completely new segments of roadway, while widening and improving the existing roadways. These combined improvements have the capability of reducing delay and relieving traffic congestion at this major intersection.”
Richards says the Kolb/Valencia intersection sees some of the highest traffic volumes in the City of Tucson, and there is a significant amount of regional pass-through traffic. He says, “The intersection improvements on this project will enhance transportation for Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, the Port of Tucson, Amazon and several other businesses that use the corridor.”
The approximate 12-month construction project began in July 2018.
September 27, 2018 - On a recent and rare stormy afternoon, construction crews on the Houghton Road bridge project had just clocked out for the day. Through the pouring rain, you could still see major progress on the twin bridges that will carry commuters over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. In fact, the northbound bridge is handling all traffic now while workers construct the southbound bridge.
When this phase of the Houghton Road Corridor Project is complete, we will have two brand new bridges with three lanes in each direction, plus multi-use paths on both sides.
City of Tucson Project Manager Austin Wesnitzer says drivers definitely will notice a safer Houghton Road Bridge. “No more potholes, and they (drivers) will be able to see what is going on in front of them as they cross over the bridge.”
Over the next few weeks crews will pour the southbound bridge deck, sidewalks and curbing, and install landscaping and a pedestrian railing. Construction is expected to be completed before the end of 2018.
South Houghton Road is a gateway to the east side of Tucson from Interstate 10. Some 12,000 vehicles cross the bridge over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks every day.
September 19, 2018 - It didn’t take long for people to discover the amenities along the new and improved Tangerine Road from La Cañada Drive to Dove Mountain Boulevard: the bike lanes, multi-use path and the drainage features, to name a few.
This week you can see these improvements for yourself at an event to celebrate the official opening of the road. You are invited to join representatives from the Regional Transportation Authority, Towns of Marana and Oro Valley, and Pima County on Friday, Sept. 21, at 9 a.m. to celebrate the completion of this RTA plan corridor improvement project. The event will be held at Tangerine Sky Park on Tangerine Road and Camino de Oeste.
Marana construction manager Tom Houle says it’s an important project for the region. “It makes connectivity from Twin Peaks Road to Oracle Road, which is a major regional connection.” Pima County voters approved the Tangerine Road project in 2006. The section from Dove Mountain Boulevard to I-10 is scheduled to get underway in the fourth quarter of the Regional Transportation Authority plan, between July 2022 and June 2026.
September 12, 2018 - The Valencia Road project from Wade Road to Ajo Highway is an impressive example of planning for the inevitable. Monsoon flooding along the nearly three-mile stretch of roadway happens every year. It makes for a long and potentially dangerous commute.
When the Regional Transportation Authority-funded project is complete, drivers will notice a big difference. Drainage improvements will include eight box culverts and 20 drainage pipe crossings capable of conveying a 100-year storm.
Pima County Transportation Department Manager Paul Bennett says, “It is satisfying to be able to provide the residents of the area with a product that addresses the historic flooding issues of the area and improve their overall mobility.”
Valencia Road is just one voter-approved RTA corridor project in the region with significant drainage improvements. Take Tangerine Road on the northwest side. The newly completed section from La Cañada Drive to Dove Mountain Boulevard has a series of drainage improvements that withstood the test of Mother Nature in this year’s monsoon. There are 18 new box culverts and more than 50 drainage pipes that send stormwater under the road along the five-mile stretch.
Marana Construction Manager Tom Houle says the drainage improvements make the commute safer for all. “Nobody likes driving on roads with four inches of water. It makes steering and stopping more difficult. Everybody who has driven it (Tangerine Road) in the pouring rain says there is no water on the road.” There are similar stories all across the region, with drainage improvements built into projects such as La Cholla Boulevard, Grant Road and Houghton Road.
September 6, 2018 - Paving operations on the Grant Road Improvement Project are moving along, with paving completed at several intersections, including Stone, First, Sixth and Park avenues. Crews have been paving at night, with work expected to run through Saturday, Sept. 8. City of Tucson Project Manager David Burbank says paving on turn bays, bus pullouts and indirect left turn lanes is complete. Next is Grant Road itself.
Voters approved Grant Road improvements with the Regional Transportation Authority plan, along with a half-cent sales tax, in 2006. When the section from Stone Avenue to Park Avenue is completed, there will be new access to local businesses, signalized bike and pedestrian crossings, shade structures, and bus shelters, along with improved intersections and drainage facilities.
The Grant Road project is one of 35 regional roadway projects in the RTA plan and is the plan’s largest roadway project.
August 30, 2018 - La Cholla Boulevard is getting a makeover. Crews are expected to begin construction on a new and improved La Cholla Boulevard from Overton Road to Tangerine Road in September. The voter-approved RTA project will include two through lanes of traffic in each direction, bike lanes, a multi-use path and drainage structures that will provide all-weather access for commuters.
Oro Valley Project Manager Cheryl Huelle says, “It (will be) exciting to complete this segment of the La Cholla corridor and connect the previous La Cholla improvements with the Tangerine Road improvements [pictured at right]. The capacity and safety benefits provided to travelers (will be) essential to the quality of living in the region.”
Huelle said overall safety will improve by reducing back up at intersections and there will be better sight visibility along La Cholla Boulevard and from the side streets. A big plus is cyclists and others will have better access to a multi-use path network in Oro Valley and Marana, and to The Loop.
Huelle is looking forward to moving some dirt! She said, “The Town of Oro Valley is excited to be working with Pima County and combining resources to make the project successful. The bid opening is an exciting milestone for the project, where the detailed design will become a real-world improvement.”
Huelle said residents have been involved in the project throughout the design and can stay up to date on the project website www.lachollaimprovements.info.
August 23, 2018 - The major southwest side corridor that carries commuters into the Tucson metro area is up next in the Regional Transportation Authority plan. When RTA project #21 is complete, it will be a whole new experience for commuters traveling on West Valencia Road.
RTA partner Pima County has hired Ashton Construction to widen a 3.3-mile stretch from Wade Road west to Ajo Highway. It will be a four-lane desert parkway with bike lanes, a multi-use path, new traffic signals and major drainage improvements, including eight box culvert crossings and 20 drainage pipe crossings that will be placed under the roadway. These will provide all-weather access for commuters.
The 2.5-mile section of Valencia from Wade Road to Mark Road was completed in 2016 under Pima County Transportation Project Manager Paul Bennett (see photo inset). He also is working on the upcoming phase. Bennett says, “Being able to complete the first segment, we have been able to take advantage of the value-engineering ideas that arose then and applied them to the design of the second phase. We are also able to work with many of the same first responders from the area that we worked with during the first build, relative to traffic flow and their needs to get to the residents.”
Bennett is looking forward to delivering another quality RTA project to the region. “It is satisfying to see this corridor be completed, providing the residents of the area with a product that addresses the historic flooding issues of the area and improving their overall mobility, not only with vehicles but also with the sidewalks and walking paths that many of the residents have taken advantage of and used.”
The project also will benefit transit riders who use the AVA Park and Ride at 5655 W. Valencia Road. The #27 Sun Tran bus provides access to Midvale Park, Pima Community College West and the Laos Transit Center.
Construction is scheduled to begin in September.
August 16, 2018 - You probably will see a few more “Delivered as promised” signs along roadway corridors and project locations this year. The Regional Transportation Authority and its partner jurisdictions are wrapping up work on several construction projects and starting new ones.
One project that affects all of us who use Interstate 10 is the Ina Road traffic interchange. Construction started more than 18 months ago and is expected to be completed in early 2019. You can see the new Ina Road already taking shape over the freeway and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks (see photo inset). Improvements to Tangerine Road from La Cañada to Dove Mountain Boulevard are just about done. There will be a special opening celebration for the Marana, Oro Valley, Pima County and RTA project in September.
Head into the City of Tucson and you will see that the section of Grant Road from Stone Avenue to Park Avenue has a whole new look. “The new Grant Road is so different and so improved, I don't recognize it!” City of Tucson project manager David Burbank recently commented. Crews will soon begin paving, and striping will occur in September.
The city is also finishing up work on the Houghton Road Bridge over the railroad tracks, building two bridge structures to handle increased traffic along the eastside corridor.
Several RTA projects are just starting, or are about to begin:
August 8, 2018 - As students head back to school, making sure they arrive safely is on every parent’s mind. The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) has funded projects all across the region that help our children get to school safely.
The amenities of a safe route to school may include sidewalks, bike lanes, shared-use paths, and push button crossings—known as HAWKs and BikeHAWKS. Pima Association of Governments’ Transportation Safety Coordinator Gabe Thum says a lot goes into designating and designing a safe route. “Transportation, public health and planning professionals, school communities, law enforcement officers, community groups and families all have roles to play using education, encouragement, engineering to meet a local community’s needs.”
Funding for school safety projects has come from the federal Safe Routes to School program, along with voter-approved RTA funds, which are generated by a half-cent sales tax through June 30, 2026.
August 1, 2018 - Sun Shuttle and the Regional Transportation Authority have a new mobile app for Sun Shuttle passengers that could make getting around on the shuttle in your neighborhood a whole lot easier. TransLoc mobile app provides users with real-time transit-travel information in the Sun Shuttle service area.
Passengers with the app can locate the nearest Sun Shuttle vehicle in real time and stay informed with accurate arrival predictions. Smart search enables them to quickly locate specific routes and stops. Users can also set favorite routes and stops.
The TransLoc rider app is available for download on both iOS and Android.
Sun Shuttle is the region’s neighborhood transit service. RTA-funded routes serve Marana, Oro Valley, Catalina, Rita Ranch, Sahuarita, Green Valley, San Xavier, Ajo and Tucson Estates. The neighborhood service is available to anyone and helps connect people to Sun Tran and Sun Express services.
July 26, 2018 - A section of Grant Road will have a whole new look when construction is done. “The new Grant Road is so different and so improved, I don't recognize it!” City of Tucson project manager David Burbank recently commented.
When work wraps up this fall on Phase 2 from Stone Avenue to Park Avenue, drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists will notice a big difference. Traffic will keep moving along with the addition of indirect left turns at Stone and First Avenues. There will be new access to local businesses, signalized bike and pedestrian crossings, shade structures, and bus shelters. Burbank said, “We added sidewalks where there were none before and we provided a little more drainage control where some locations would flood during monsoon storms. This added a measure of safety.”
Voters approved Grant Road improvements and a half cent sales tax to fund Regional Transportation Authority projects in 2006. The Tucson Department of Transportation is working right alongside the contractor to keep activities moving. Burbank said, “We have been very proactive in our inspections and submittal reviews, and we are part of the pre-planning that the contractor does. Our pre-activity meetings have been instrumental in minimizing delays and surprises.”
Crews are set to start paving the top layer of hot mix asphalt the last week of August. Striping will occur in September.
July 17, 2018 - If you have yet to ride the Sun Link streetcar, here is your chance to ride for free. Two local organizations will sponsor free rides on Saturday, July 28, to celebrate the 4th anniversary of the streetcar service launch.
Voters approved the project and funding for the streetcar in 2006 as part of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) plan. The 3.9-mile route connects major activity centers from the University of Arizona through Downtown, and west to the Mercado District.
“We have fun going downtown, and the price, since we’re seniors, you can’t beat the price,” a rider recently commented. “When you have people visiting from out of state, they love to ride the streetcar.”
The streetcar has helped attract transit-oriented development along the corridor, including new retail, office and residential projects. The all-electric streetcars help reduce air pollution and congestion. The low-floor entry is accessible to people with strollers, people in wheelchairs and commuters with bicycles.
More than 3.8 million passengers have boarded the streetcar since service began in July 2014. If you want to join the fun, you may head to any stop on the route and ride for free all day on July 28. Several events are planned, including on-board concerts and entertainment along the streetcar corridor.
July 11, 2018 - Transportation requires planning far into the future. Members of the newly formed Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) for Pima Association of Governments and the Regional Transportation Authority are eager to roll up their sleeves. The committee met for the first time this week for members to become familiar with their task and to get to know each other.
Members will provide input on projects to be considered for an update to our region’s federally required, long-range transportation plan and weigh in on the future development of an RTA continuation plan for the RTA’s half-cent sales tax and future RTA projects.
Committee members were selected based on a well-balanced geographical representation of the region and their diverse knowledge and perspective of transportation needs in the region.
Committee member Christopher Schmaltz says, “It’s really important that we have a broad range of perspectives in my view, and it looks like the group that has been selected really brings that.”
Committee Chair Tom McGovern told the group, “Our call is to represent the entire region. Think global.”
After providing input regarding the long-range transportation plan projects, the CAC members will work with the RTA’s Technical Management Committee to review projects and cost estimates, along with establishing priorities for transportation in the region before RTA plan development. McGovern said, “We have a responsibility to look at all parts of our transportation system.” The next CAC meeting will be this fall. All meetings are open to the public.
July 5, 2018 - The Regional Transportation Authority promises to deliver 200 bus pullouts across the region over the life of the RTA plan through fiscal year 2026. So far, 113 pullouts have been constructed. Bus pullouts allow transit vehicles to move out of the travel lanes to pick up and drop off passengers. Traffic can continue to flow in the through lane, and drivers do not need to make lane changes to avoid getting stuck behind a stopped bus.
Drivers in the City of South Tucson have noticed a difference. South Tucson City Planner Mick Jensen says, “Sixth Avenue is the most heavily used bus route in the region. There also is a lot of pedestrian traffic and car traffic. To be able to execute the frequent pickups at each South Tucson bus stop without holding up auto traffic is a big help.”
When a citizens committee developed the RTA plan in 2005, the public expressed strong support for bus pullouts. Transit users like them because most of the new pullouts are constructed with shelters and other amenities to improve transit rider comfort. Not only that, pullouts improve safety for drivers and riders.
Several pullouts are under construction right now in South Tucson. Jensen says, “When complete, the pullouts will improve traffic flow and safety. Often bus riders load and unload bicycles, increasing the time a bus holds up traffic. The pullouts will help a great deal.”
June 27, 2018 - Residents in the Rita Ranch/Civano neighborhoods have a unique opportunity to help shape the future of commuting in the region. The Regional Transportation Authority, along with transportation app developer Metropia and ridesharing service Ruby Ride are partnering on a grant-funded project to help people get to where they need to go.
The Adaptive Mobility with Reliability and Efficiency (AMORE) pilot project launched this week, and the organizers need your help to test the new app for free. If you live in the Rita Ranch/Civano neighborhoods, you may sign up to use the app that will plan your trips. During the pilot phase, you can preschedule a ride service that can connect you with public transit or your final destinations. The rides are free during the test period that runs through September. When the program officially begins in the fall, participants will plan and pay for their rides through the app.
RTA Transit Manager James McGinnis says users will have choices. "A lot of people are very excited about the flexibility of having access to multiple modes of transportation through one payment system. The idea is to give individuals and families flexibility in their commuting options." Space is limited in the pilot program, so check here for details: https://www.amoretucson.com/pilot-program
Northwest side corridor project coming soon
June 20, 2018 -If you use La Cholla Boulevard on the northwest side, you probably have noticed work crews along the side of the road. Workers are relocating public utilities ahead of the RTA-funded La Cholla corridor project.
Plans are to construct an all-weather-accessible, four-lane, divided desert parkway from Overton Road to Tangerine Road. Although the construction area is mainly in Oro Valley, Town Engineer Paul Keesler notes the project has many regional benefits. “This route offers a viable alternative to Thornydale in the west and La Canada/Oracle in the east as a primary means of entering and exiting the northwest side of Tucson," he says.
The north section of La Cholla Road connects to the nearly completed Tangerine Road Improvement project. The new roadway will have sidewalks and a multi-use path (MUP) that will connect the path along the Canyon del Oro Wash to the new MUPs on Tangerine Road. Keesler says, “This will add miles of separate and safe bicycle routes to the existing regional loop system.”
One lane of traffic will remain open during construction. As an RTA partner, Oro Valley has a plan to provide regular updates to drivers during construction. "We will embark on a campaign to alert the motoring public that there will be reduced speeds and periodic restrictions,” Keesler noted.
The project is currently being advertised to solicit bids for road construction. Bidding is expected to close in August, with a contractor in place by mid-September.
June 15, 2018 - If there's one thing we all have in common, it’s the need for transportation. We all have to get around. We rely on an efficient transportation system to get to work, school and appointments.
A good transportation system requires planning far into the future. A groups of 35 citizens is about to get to work to provide input on our region’s long-range transportation plan. The newly formed Citizens’ Advisory Committee (CAC) also will weigh in on development of a continuation plan for the Regional Transportation Authority’s half-cent sales tax and future RTA projects.
The members were selected based on a well-balanced geographical representation of the region and their diverse perspectives of transportation, mobility and accessibility needs.
CAC Chair Tom McGovern served on the first CAC for the current RTA plan. Reflecting on the diverse makeup of the new committee he said, “We all come from different backgrounds and different circles, and all of us are impacted in one way or another by our transportation system. I see this as an incredibly important opportunity.”
The committee is expected to hold its first meeting this summer. Members will serve up to a three-year term.
June 6, 2018 - The newest edition of the Our Mobility brochure is now available with updates on RTA project delivery, the latest maps and financial statements. Our Mobility is a helpful resource to learn about projects completed, and the timeline for future projects.
Voters in Pima County approved the 20-year regional transportation plan in 2006. The May 2018 issue of Our Mobility includes information about sales tax revenues collected and expenditures for roadway, safety, environmental and economic vitality improvements as well as transit expansion. It is your guide to all things RTA.
The online version of Our Mobility is available here. You may pick up a hard copy at Pima Association of Governments, 1 E. Broadway Blvd., Suite 401, or request a copy in the mail by calling PAG offices at (520) 792-1093.
May 31, 2018 -
Petition for Public Highway Proceedings No. 921
Establishment of Tangerine Road, from Casa Grande Highway to Florence Highway.
Fourteen (14) Miles, more or less.1
And with that, a group of Pima County residents and taxpayers petitioned the Board of Supervisors to establish Tangerine Road and declare it a county highway. That was in 1956.
More than 60 years later, Tangerine Road still carries commuters from what is Interstate 10 to Oracle Road. But things have changed. This northernmost corridor that casually rolled through ranchland and open desert now crosses through a growing commerce center in the Town of Marana and is the west gateway to the Town of Oro Valley.
The widening of Tangerine Road received the green light in 2006 when voters approved the Regional Transportation Authority plan and half-cent sales tax to fund the plan. The current phase of the Tangerine Road improvement project expands the two-lane roadway to a four-lane desert parkway with bike lanes, and a multi-use path from Dove Mountain Boulevard to La Cañada Drive. Major drainage structures are in place now that will allow for all-weather access during heavy rains. No more having to wait out the storm.
Construction crews will perform final paving operations over the next two weeks. The Town of Marana is managing the project and working with contractor Tangerine Corridor Constructors to complete it by the end of the summer. Construction on the next phase of Tangerine Road, from Dove Mountain Boulevard west to I-10, is planned for the fourth quarter of the 20-year RTA plan (FY 2007-2026).
When the 15 petition signers asked the county to establish a 100-foot-wide Tangerine Road way back when, they probably never envisioned it becoming a regional corridor that would accommodate a rapidly growing northwest side.
1Pima County, Petition for Public Hearing Proceedings, May 1956
May 23, 2018 - If you put all the miles of Regional Transportation Authority-funded sidewalks together, you could walk from Tucson to Nogales and back! With only one exception, all of the large roadway projects include sidewalks on one or both sides of the road. The exception is the rural Wilmot Road paving project north of Sahuarita Road. The RTA has filled some sidewalks gaps in the region, especially along arterial and collector streets.
Jim DeGrood, who is Pima Association of Governments Deputy Director and manages the RTA program, says that "it's really important to reinforce our sidewalk system in order for people to take advantage of our transit network."
New sidewalks in the region conform to federal Americans with Disability Act (ADA) standards, based on creating an environment that is usable for people of all abilities. The RTA has funded 159 miles of sidewalks with about 150 more miles to come. DeGrood says not only do sidewalks improve safety, they make this a better place to live. "Walking is clearly a quality of life issue. It's one of the best forms of exercise for young and old alike. And you don't have to have a gym membership. It's free!"
May 16, 2018 - One of the busiest intersections in the region is about to get a major overhaul. Work on Valencia Road from Wilmot to just east of Kolb is expected to begin this summer.
The main feature of this Regional Transportation Authority project will be a parkway-at-grade intersection to ease congestion and move vehicles more efficiently. The intersection will have ramps in place of left turns, as well as indirect left turns (U-turns). "The intersection will operate like a diamond interchange with a traffic signal in the middle. It is a very efficient way to handle traffic," said Jim DeGrood, deputy director of Pima Association of Governments, which manages the RTA.
Much of the work will be done outside the Valencia and Kolb travel lanes. DeGrood says traffic will actually improve during construction because crews will build the south on-ramp first to accommodate vehicles that would have traveled through the intersection. When the project is completed in the summer of 2019, we will have a 6-lane desert parkway with bike lanes and sidewalks.
The City of Tucson will manage the $20 million project. It will tie into Valencia Road improvements from Alvernon to Wilmot that were completed in 2015.
May 9, 2018 - Let's say you have the news on while getting ready for work in the morning. You hear a traffic report about congestion, a crash or construction. Chances are that information came from Pima Association of Governments’ (PAG) TransView tool. The website is open to everyone, but local media access the system to communicate traffic information to their listeners and viewers.
PAG Transportation Program Administrator Paul Casertano said, “When commuters hear traffic updates over the radio or other broadcast channels, they are often using TransView services without knowing it.”
TransView is a mobile-friendly online tool complete with a real-time, congestion-based map. It provides regional travel information including traffic incidents, weather radar, live traffic camera feeds and local roadway construction. PAG collects information from a variety of sources, including the region’s 911 dispatch system, local departments of transportation, the National Weather Service and the Arizona Department of Transportation. Traffic congestion information comes from Google’s traffic feed. Casertano notes, “TransView brings all these pieces together for easy access to regional traffic conditions by commuters and broadcasters.” It’s easy access and gives a clear picture of what really is going on. “The Tucson region carries over 75 percent of its vehicle miles traveled on its local road network, making the need for accurate local roadway traveler information of utmost importance.”
Transit information, bike maps, pedestrian safety, parking and emergency alerts also are available on TransView.org, making it a one-stop gateway to information people need for a successful commute.
May 2, 2018 - If you haven’t been on the section of Grant Road from Stone Avenue to Park Avenue lately, you might be in for a pleasant surprise. Roadway construction workers are making progress on the 1.2-mile stretch of road.
The first layer of asphalt is completed on the south side of the roadway and crews are working on curbs, sidewalks and driveways. Phase Two includes additional travel lanes, new and wider sidewalks, signalized crosswalks, bike lanes and enhanced landscaping. New drainage features, a median and managed access to businesses will improve safety.
The $14.5 million voter-approved RTA project is managed by the City of Tucson.
City of Tucson project manager David Burbank says, “The flow of traffic will be greatly improved. When the entire corridor is complete, it will have a consistent look all the way to Swan Road." Indirect left turns will be placed at Stone and First avenues. Burbank says, "They will help with continuous traffic movement through those busy intersections."
Burbank expects completion in September 2018. It’s going to be a long, hot summer for road crews, so please take it slow through the construction zone.
Check out this aerial footage of the project from earlier this year:
April 25, 2018 - The English rock band Yes composed a song about roundabouts in the 1970s. Their inspiration came after they drove through a series of about 40 roundabouts during a tour in Scotland. Who would have thought to write a song about a circular intersection?
Well, many traffic engineers sing the praises of roundabouts. “Roundabouts are a great alternative to the traditional intersection,” said Alvin Stump, district engineer for the Arizona Department of Transportation. “While they may be a change, the safety benefits cannot be ignored.” According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, modern roundabouts provide a 90 percent reduction in fatal crashes and a 75 percent reduction in injury crashes.
Our region has a handful of roundabouts, including one in Green Valley that the Regional Transportation Authority funded. Pima Association of Governments’ Transportation Safety Program Coordinator Gabe Thum said, “Roundabouts have fewer conflict points and lower absolute speeds in comparison to conventional intersections. The potential for hazardous conflicts, such as right angle and left turn head-on crashes is eliminated with roundabout use.” In fact, these circular intersections with no traffic signals have just eight conflict points where crashes can occur, versus 32 in a traditional intersection. They also increase traffic flow, which reduces fuel consumption and pollution.
So, why are there only a few roundabouts in the region? Thum says the low number may be for a couple of reasons. “Roundabouts aren’t always the right intersection treatment, and their application is highly dependent on a multitude of factors, including traffic volumes and facility type.” And then there is the concern about how to use them. “Roundabouts can be confusing for unfamiliar drivers, and there can be initial public resistance to their implementation without thorough public outreach and education.”
To learn more about roundabouts (the traffic circle, not the song), please visit azdot.gov/roundabouts.
April 18, 2018 - Bats returning from their winter homes south of Arizona have a new place to hang out … er … roost when they arrive back in Tucson. The newly constructed northbound half of Houghton Road Bridge over the railroad tracks has incorporated roosting real estate for the tiny mammals. Special roosting boxes were designed to attach to the bridge and are already in place as biologists await the bat’s migration north.
Thousands of bats from four different species have been observed on the old Houghton Road Bridge since 1998. Crews demolished the bridge in late March and early April while most of the bats were away for the winter. Biologists are optimistic the bats will take a liking to the new bridge and boxes. In fact, they already have. Mike Dawson, environmental planner with EcoPlan Associates, said, “Upon inspection of the bat houses in the new northbound bridge on April 4, there were 18 bats. This is the time of year the bats start migrating from Mexico and points farther south. We expect to have a better idea of occupancy and variety of species in the next 30 days or so.”
It took careful planning to time the bat re-location just right. Dawson said that “bats are an important component of the ecosystem. The species at Houghton Road Bridge are insectivores, consuming up to half their body weight in insects each night. In turn, the bats often become prey for raptors. All part of the cycle that needs to stay in balance.” Dawson and his team will continue to monitor the bats as they find their new home.
Work is already underway on the second Houghton Road Bridge. Funding for the bridge project is a blend of RTA, City of Tucson, Pima County and Federal Highway Administration dollars.
April 11, 2018 - A series of colorful concrete sculptures will soon grace the new bike and pedestrian path along Broadway Boulevard from Camino Seco to Houghton Road. Construction on the Regional Transportation Authority-funded Broadway Boulevard improvement project is expected to begin this summer.
The planning process for the two-mile stretch included getting public input and selection of the art that would be placed along the corridor. Up to one percent of the construction cost on RTA projects may include art. Residents wanted art that represents the beauty and resources of the desert. The artist team of Niki Glen, Cindee Lundin, Ralph Prata and Jeremy Soule got right to work. Glen said community participation in the selection process was important. “We wanted to have something that people would enjoy.”
The 18 difference pieces are all made from a soft concrete so the artists are able to carve out designs such as cactus, birds and flowers. The colors are vibrant and remind us of this beautiful place called southern Arizona. The artists start with a special dye and will finish with a coating to protect the sculptures from the elements. The tallest sculpture, or totem, is 10 feet high. The pieces are crafted into rocks, walls and a sundial.
The art will be placed in six locations along East Broadway Boulevard. As drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists travel through the corridor, there will be no question that the pieces all go together. Lundin said, “We want people in the four seconds they have to view the art to say, ‘wow, I would like to see that up close.’” The up-close detail is impressive: tiny big horned sheep carved into a rock, pointy stars in a dark desert sky and a hummingbird visiting a flower for food.
The road project will give us four travel lanes, improved drainage, new sidewalks and bike paths, lighting and landscaping and, now you know, a public art display that will make you feel right at home.
April 4, 2018 - If your business is in a Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) transportation improvement project zone, you can get help to guide you through the project. The voter-approved RTA plan includes funding for small business assistance.
The RTA’s MainStreet Business Assistance program provides business outreach liaisons, complimentary consulting and other business resources to help minimize the impact of construction. Businesses within a quarter mile of an RTA-funded project can take advantage of the free services MainStreet provides.
MainStreet consultants walk the project area, meeting face-to-face with businesses owners and managers. Over 7,200 businesses have benefited from the business outreach liaison’s services they have provided with over 1,100 taking advantage of the complimentary business consulting to-date.
Ruben & Felicia Bien-Willner with Furniture Creations on Grant Road said, “We worked with three different consultants from MainStreet, and the results for Furniture Creations were incredibly good. Their expertise showed in all the advice they gave us, and that is part of our success. We are really thankful to them for their dedication, integrity and big heart in understanding our problems and helping us get the solutions that we needed.”
MainStreet Program Manager Britton Dornquast said, “Transportation improvement projects can take a toll on some businesses. We provide many valuable business services, but we always encourage the public to continue to use, shop and support the wonderful and appreciative businesses located in these temporary construction zones.”
For more information about MainStreet, please visit MainStreetInfo.org.
March 28, 2018 - In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, crews began taking down a giant—what was the Houghton Road Bridge over the railroad tracks. Union Pacific stopped all train traffic for five hours overnight so that workers could get the job done.
A new southbound bridge with three lanes and a multi-use path will be built in place of the old structure. It’s all part of the Houghton Road Corridor project that voters approved in the Regional Transportation Authority plan in 2006. For now, all traffic will use the new northbound bridge. City of Tucson project manager Austin Wesnitzer says drivers already notice a difference: no more potholes, and a better view of what’s ahead. “From a safety standpoint that’s a huge benefit for the traveling public.”
Funding for the bridge project is a blend of RTA, City of Tucson, Pima County and Federal Highway Administration dollars.
March 21, 2018 - You may start seeing more of those big orange RTA roadside signs as our regional partners gear up for a year of busy roadway construction. Four corridor projects are in construction now, with six more to begin in 2018. Downtown Links, Broadway Boulevard from Camino Seco to Houghton, and Valencia Road from Wilmot to Kolb are out for bid or will be soon. On deck are Valencia Road from Wade to Ajo, Houghton Road from the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to I-10, and La Cholla Boulevard from Overton Road to Tangerine Road. “RTA projects are located throughout the region and are in every community,” said Jim DeGrood, deputy director of Pima Association of Governments, which manages the RTA.
The RTA works with its partner jurisdictions to complete projects on time and on budget. In some cases, project costs have come in below the engineer’s estimate. In fact, costs have been an average of 17 percent below estimates, and that has helped the RTA cash flow.
As RTA member jurisdictions begin the design and construction of new projects, you can find links to their project pages through the RTA website on the Projects page. There you can learn about the status of the project, open houses or other opportunities to provide feedback. Thanks for participating in the process.
March 14, 2018 - The Downtown Links project has something for everyone: a convenient way to hop onto I-10 from Downtown, drainage features, pedestrian and bike paths, a railroad underpass and a deck plaza where we can enjoy our famous southern Arizona weather.
The next phase is about to begin, as contractors submit proposals for construction of the 1.3-mile long roadway connecting Barraza-Aviation Parkway to Interstate 10. It will be a 30 mph, four-lane road with bike lanes, sidewalks and a separate multi-use path. City of Tucson project manager Blake Richards said, “It will provide enhanced mobility to and from the east side of Tucson, and through the Downtown area.”
Richards noted the project addresses a number of challenges. “It is unique that this corridor project involves building a new road within the urban core of Downtown Tucson. The new roadway winds its way along the railroad tracks and through multiple historic areas, while solving multiple problems along the way.”
Major drainage improvements will remove a large portion of downtown and surrounding neighborhoods from the 100-year flood plain. In fact, flooding on the Stone Avenue underpass will be a thing of the past. And this project will eliminate one of the most hazardous railroad crossings in the state at St. Mary's Road and Sixth Street. “New and safer railroad crossings will be provided, including grade separation at the busy 6th Street crossing,” Richards said. “Also, new and improved bicycle and pedestrian access will be provided throughout the corridor.”
The City of Tucson is managing the project. It is expected to hire a contractor in spring 2018.
March 7, 2018 - Residents in the Rita Ranch area, on Tucson’s east side, are about to test a new mobility-on-demand (MOD) program that could help busy families and individuals get to where they need to go with ease. The Regional Transportation Authority received a federal grant in late 2016 to develop and test a program that integrates new mobility tools, such as a smart phone app, bike and car sharing, and bus and van services, to make getting around easy and convenient. The project will use new technology to help augment transit use by addressing first-mile/last-mile service gaps and help reduce traffic congestion.
The RTA has partnered with transportation app developer Metropia and the ridesharing service RubyRide to pilot the Adaptive Mobility with Reliability and Efficiency (AMORE) project in Rita Ranch.
Commuters will use a new app that is in design right now to schedule and pay for trips that might include on-demand shared rides, van service and public transit. Here’s how it might work: Mom works in downtown Tucson. She leaves her vehicle at home, gets a shared ride to a bus stop, rides the express bus to town and schedules another shared ride to pick up the kids after school. The app does all the planning for her.
RTA Transit Manager James McGinnis says subscribers will have choices. "A lot of people are very excited about the flexibility of having access to multiple modes of transportation through one payment system. The idea is to give individuals and families flexibility in their commuting options."
A limited number of commuters will begin using the new app starting in June, with a full program launch in September in the Rita Ranch area. If the pilot project is successful, it could be expanded in other communities down the road.
Feb. 28, 2018 - Did you know that 54 percent of people who ride the bus do not have access to a working car? That’s what on-board surveys tell us about people who use transit across the region. When voters approved the Regional Transportation Authority plan in 2006, mobility and reducing congestion were priorities. Expansion of weekend, evening and express bus service helps people get around. It also reduces the number of vehicles on the road when people who have cars choose to leave them at home.
RTA Transit Manager James McGinnis said, “Sun Express has expanded public transit options for commuters in outlying communities, allowing them to park at our park-and-ride facilities, and relax on their way in to work or school.”
Once commuters reach downtown or the University of Arizona, they can use the streetcar to access destinations along the four-mile route. The streetcar will celebrate its 4th anniversary this year. “RTA is proud partner in the development and operation of the Sun Link Streetcar,” McGinnis continued, “We’re extremely pleased with the development Sun Link has helped to bring to our burgeoning downtown.” Funding for the streetcar came from several sources, including the RTA, the City of Tucson and federal grants.
And there’s more! The RTA also funds expanded neighborhood circulator, Sun Shuttle, and paratransit service, Sun Shuttle dial-a-ride, giving the elderly and people with disabilities who live in rural areas options where there were none before. McGinnis said, “Transit gives us less congestion, air quality benefits and overall better quality of life in the region.”
Feb. 21, 2018 - One of the most anticipated projects in the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) plan is Broadway Boulevard, from Camino Seco to Houghton Road.
And now it’s here. The project is expected to go out for bid the last week of February. Once the City of Tucson selects a contractor, work will begin. More recently, you may have noticed the utility crews that are making upgrades ahead of the roadway construction.
The two-mile-long Broadway East project will widen the road to four lanes and include a raised median, drainage features (so rainwater goes under the road), bike lanes, sidewalks and public art.
The improved roadway will connect to the previously completed intersections at Camino Seco, Harrison Road and Houghton Road. City of Tucson project manager Greg Orsini said, “When this project is complete, the folks who use the roadway will have a safer and wider Broadway to use.... They are going to be much happier.”
If all goes as planned, construction will begin in early June, and take about 16 months to complete.
|Design images courtesy: Kittelson & Associates
|East Broadway area neighbors chose the artwork for the project. Niki Glen and her team are working on sculptural forms that represent the beauty of our desert. The photos are draft images of the art.
Feb. 14, 2018 - The Regional Transportation Authority plan has funded new bridges over washes, roadways and railroad tracks across the region. In addition, the RTA funded new bike and pedestrian bridges, and even a wildlife bridge. And did you know that a more recent bike-ped bridge was built using recycled components?
The girders from the old Sahuarita Road bridge over the Santa Cruz River were put into use for the Pima County/RTA bike-ped bridge along the Rillito River path. The bridge crosses east-west over Camino de la Tierra.
Sahuarita Road, which was improved in the first period (FY 2007-11) of the RTA plan, needed a new bridge. The existing girders were no longer long enough to be used — at least not on Sahuarita Road.
Recycling the girders for reuse on another project is a win-win.
“Repurposing bridge girders that still have service life to pedestrian bridges reduces both our environmental impact and construction costs,” said Pima Association of Governments’ (PAG) Deputy Director Jim DeGrood. PAG manages the RTA.
The Sahuarita Road project was completed with new twin bridges and longer girders. Other bridge projects funded as part of the 20-year voter-approved RTA plan include: the Twin Peaks overpass, La Cholla bridge, Houghton Road bridge, Sunset Road bridge and Elephant Head Road bridge, to name a few.
Feb. 7, 2018 - When voters approved the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) plan in 2006, they gave the nod to increasing safety in our region.
The 20-year plan includes intersection improvements, sidewalks, bus pullouts and pedestrian crossings, all to enhance safety for users of our transportation system.
The RTA, which funds its projects through a voter-approved half-cent sales tax, has completed more than 500 safety improvements in the region.
If you drive on North Oracle Road, you will notice the newest additions to the RTA safety project list. The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) just completed an RTA-funded bus pullout and signalized pedestrian crossing at Oracle and Las Lomitas roads, where multiple pedestrian fatalities have occurred in the past.
The crossing, coupled with the new bus pullout on northbound Oracle Road will allow transit passengers the opportunity to safely cross the roadway to get to homes and businesses on the west side of Oracle Road.
Pima Association of Governments’ Deputy Director Jim DeGrood said, “The safety of this section of roadway has been a long-term issue in the region. It is one of the busiest commercial corridors in the region that is also loaded with multi-family housing. Before this project came online, your only option to cross the road was to walk uphill in a ditch to reach a signalized pedestrian crossing.”
As regional partners, the RTA and ADOT worked together to complete the project.
Jan. 31, 2018 - Regional Transportation Authority roadway project #32 is better known as the Houghton Road Corridor. When the current construction phase is done in early 2018, traffic will be shifted from the old 1960’s-era bridge to a new northbound bridge to make way for construction of a new southbound bridge.
The bridge project widens Houghton from two lanes to six lanes, adds bike paths and sidewalks. Construction of bridges over the Union Pacific Railroad started in spring 2017.
The City of Tucson is the managing agency on this RTA project. City of Tucson Project Manager Austin Wesnitzer says the impact of bridge construction will be minimal for drivers. "It's a pretty unique project...because of the construction sequencing, we will be able to keep the roadway open to current commuters."
South Houghton Road is a gateway to the east side of Tucson from Interstate 10. Some 12,000 vehicles cross the bridge over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks every day.
Jan. 24, 2018 - Public art can be a reflection of what is important in a community. Naturally, our region’s rich and diverse cultural heritage gives us an impressive display of public art all across the region. In fact, it is your art.
Up to 1 percent of the cost of a Regional Transportation Authority-funded project may include public art. It can be as subtle as a decorative railing on a bridge, or as stunning as a steel sculpture in a median.
Jeff DaCosta with the Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona describes public art as “a method of providing communities with a visual language of their values.” It also provides a path for people to get involved in their community. The nonprofit Arts Foundation oversees the process for selecting artists, the design and getting public input. DaCosta says community involvement is essential.
When you look at RTA art pieces, it’s easy to see how they are in harmony with their surroundings. Horse-themed art along the Houghton Road corridor fits in perfectly with the Western feel of the region’s east side. Local artist Simon Donovan who collaborated on the Houghton Road art recalls community meetings where residents talked about what they would like to see along the corridor. “We noted that there are a lot of horse properties out there, a lot of ranches, and we wanted to celebrate that aspect of the area.”
On the other side of town, the monuments along Silverbell Road capture the history of the west side, including the Anza Trail and Painted Hills Wash. The built-in benches provide resting spots for pedestrians.
The streetcar route showcases multiple art installations. The Mercado stop on the west end is another example of history and culture rooted in art. The tiles on the platform celebrate the crops once grown in the area and the people who lived there.
Next time you’re out and about, take a look around you. Public art is in every community in our region, and you just might see your culture and traditions looking right back at you.
Jan. 17, 2018 - Tangerine Road from Thornydale Road to Dove Mountain Boulevard has a whole new look. Construction crews are putting the finishing touches on this segment of Tangerine Road with recent paving and striping.
The new segment features a four-lane roadway, landscaped medians, bike lanes, sidewalks, multi-use paths, turn lanes, wildlife crossings, and drainage improvements that will allow for all-weather access.
Work on the section from Thornydale Road to La Cañada continues, and is expected to be completed in summer 2018.
Voters approved the Tangerine Road Corridor project in May 2006 as part of the 20-year Regional Transportation Authority plan. When completed, the Tangerine Road improvements will stretch from La Cañada Drive to Interstate 10.
Greenway project is connecting communities Jan. 9, 2018 - In its heyday, the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad carried people and freight through southern Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Today, a section of abandoned EP & SW railway in our region has a new purpose, and it is still bringing people and communities together.
In 2006, voters approved RTA funding for greenway projects, including the El Paso and Southwestern Greenway project. It is a classic example of regional cooperation that, when completed, will connect the cities of Tucson and South Tucson with a multi-use path that follows a six-mile long section of abandoned railway. The Regional Transportation Authority, the cities of Tucson and South Tucson, and Pima County are partners on the project.
South Tucson City Planner Mick Jensen said, “It’s a safe connector. It’s a car-free, pedestrian and bicycle pathway. It really will provide a lot of great opportunities for people to get to downtown from different parts of the community.”
The first 800 feet of trail is completed. It runs along the west side of Tucson’s downtown fire station. If you get a chance to visit the area, you will see how the entire six miles will look. Neighbors and businesses have weighed in on amenities they would like to see along the path, including lighting, benches, shade and a park.
Lifelong South Tucson resident Arlene Lopez is excited that the old track alignment has a new purpose. She said, “In my community, people have always ‘walked the tracks’…People have used that area for years, ever since I can remember. I think it’s a great project for families.”
The greenway will be constructed in sections but will follow the same master plan. Construction is expected to begin on the first South Tucson sections in 2018. Jensen said, “We hope to have it built all the way to Sixth Avenue here within two years, so between Sixth Avenue and Downtown, we would pretty much have a completed greenway.”
Jan. 3, 2018 - The Regional Transportation Authority has made it easier for commuters to take transit. The 20-year RTA plan funds park-and-ride lots across the region to support carpooling and transit options. Seven have been built to-date (click map to enlarge). The lots are located near bus routes so commuters can park their vehicles and ride the bus to their worksites.
So even if you don’t live close to a bus route, you can still connect with a Sun Tran or Sun Express bus to get to your destination. Visit SunTran.com to see if you can access a route to your workplace. By reducing the number of vehicles on the road, commuters help to reduce congestion and air pollutants.
Dec. 20, 2017 - Valencia Road, from Mark Road to Ajo Highway (State Route 86), is a Regional Transportation Authority improvement project approved by voters in May 2006.
This $37 million project, which is managed by Pima County, includes $15 million from the RTA. RTA funding is from a half-cent sales tax voters also approved in May 2006 to fund the 20-year plan.
Construction improvements will widen the existing roadway in order to enhance safety, reduce congestion, improve operations and increase mobility.
The project, one of 35 major roadway improvement corridors in the RTA plan, will feature additional travel lanes, raised landscaped median, bike lanes in each direction and a multi-use pathway for pedestrians. Intersection work is planned at Camino Verde, Wade Road, Valhalla Road and SR 86 to match or improve existing conditions.
In addition, the project will have major drainage improvements, including a crossing of the Black Wash, landscaping and public art along the corridor. Valencia Road, a major east-west arterial on the south side of the Tucson metropolitan area, is designated as a scenic major route in the Pima County Major Streets and Routes Plan.
The corridor has been divided into two phases.
- The first phase was constructed from Mark Road to Wade Road, which was completed in spring 2016
- The second (final) phase will be from Wade Road to SR 86 (Ajo Highway), and work is scheduled to commence in spring 2018.
Dec. 13, 2017 - If you drive on Interstate 10 through Tucson on a regular basis, you see an extraordinary transformation taking place. Work on the Ina Road traffic Interchange started in early 2017.
This project will enhance safety by eliminating the at-grade crossing on Ina Road at the railroad tracks and building an overpass that will take Ina Road over the tracks and Interstate 10. The overpass will eliminate the need for traffic to stop for 40 to 60 trains that cross Ina Road every day. In addition, I-10 will be widened and lowered as part of the design.
The total construction cost is $148 million. Funding partners include the Regional Transportation Authority, the Federal Highway Administration and the Town of Marana. The Arizona Department of Transportation is managing the project. Construction began in February 2017 and is expected to take two years to complete.
“When we complete this project, this area will be better for drivers because they no longer will need to wait for trains or cross the tracks on their way to work,” said Rod Lane, ADOT district engineer for the South Central District. “The added lanes on both Ina Road and I-10 should allow traffic to move through the area more efficiently.”
The frontage roads on both sides of the interstate will be elevated to intersect with the new alignment of Ina Road. The project will greatly improve east-west travel on Ina Road. West of the freeway, commuters will travel over new bridge structures that span the Santa Cruz River. Other features include improved drainage, lighting, landscaping, a multi-use path and bike lanes.
Although the Ina Road traffic interchange is closed during construction, Ina Road is open to allow access for businesses in the area, and visiting them during construction supports their economic vitality. Detours are clearly marked, as is access to businesses.
The Town of Marana developed a free app to help commuters navigate the construction. The map is fully interactive and offers project updates, detour information and a list of businesses along the project corridor.
Dec. 6, 2017 - The Houghton Road, Interstate 10 to Tanque Verde Road, project (also known as the Houghton Road Corridor) is a 13-mile corridor which consists of the following sections:
- Houghton Road: 22nd Street to Irvington Road. This project began design in late 2016 and has reached 60 percent design completion. Construction is expected to start in 2022.
- Houghton Road: Valencia Road to Mary Ann Cleveland Way. Design for this project began in mid-2017 and is anticipated to take approximately 24 months, with construction expected to commence in 2020.
- Houghton Road: Bridge over the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR). Construction began in March 2017 and should take approximately two years to complete.
- Houghton Road: UPRR to Interstate 10. This project is preparing for construction which is anticipated to begin in 2018. This project is one of the largest roadway projects in the 20-year Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) plan, which was approved by voters in 2006.
One of the phases on the corridor includes construction of the Houghton Road Bridge over the Union Pacific Railroad. Construction for this $11.3 million* bridge project began in March 2017 and will be constructed in two phases.
Construction is expected to take approximately two years to complete. When the work is done, traffic will be redirected to use both bridges, one for northbound traffic and the other for southbound traffic.
- The first phase will keep traffic on the existing bridge, while a new three-lane bridge is constructed. Once the new bridge is completed, traffic will be shifted over to the new bridge.
- The second phase will include demolishing the existing bridge and building a new three-lane bridge where the old bridge was located.
During this work, bats roosting underneath the existing bridge will be relocated. The bats typically roost in the thin expansion cracks located underneath the existing bridge during the day and then emerge at dusk in swarms to feed on mosquitoes and other insects, and pollinate local plants and crops. The bridge provides important roosting and nursery habitat for local bats.
Since modern bridge designs have done away with using the thin expansion cracks, crews will be installing bat boxes and other features underneath the new bridges where bats can migrate to and roost when the old bridge is removed. The bat boxes, which will be located under the new bridges, contain thin crevices for roosting habitat. Each bat box can hold more than 300 bats. The $88,000 bat box project is funded under the Wildlife Linkages category of the RTA plan.
*Construction costs of many RTA projects have come in under the engineer’s estimate. The low bid for this project was $11.3 million, or 33 percent under the engineer’s estimate.
Nov. 29, 2017 -If you have lived through a summer monsoon in the Tucson region, you know that washes fill up fast, and it doesn’t take long for some roads to flood. Flooded roads often lead to temporary closures, making through travel impossible.
Drainage improvements incorporated into RTA-funded roadway projects prevent or eliminate stormwater flooding. When streets are water-free, drivers experience fewer delays. This is especially important for emergency first responders who need quick access to their destinations.
New RTA-funded bridges, such as La Cholla Bridge, Sunset Road Bridge and Airmen Memorial Bridge, provide all-weather access across the region.
Drainage features on roadway project improvements include box culverts that direct water flow under the roads. An example of improved access during severe storms is the West Valencia Road from Wade Road to Mark Road project, completed in 2016 with a series of new drainage features and added safety for commuters.
Nov. 22, 2017 - In early 2017, Tucson’s eastern side of town gained a new regional corridor that connected Sabino Canyon Road, from just south of Tanque Verde Road, to Kolb Road.
The new regional corridor is one of 35 roadway corridor improvements approved by voters in 2006 as part of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) plan.
Construction of the project, which was managed by the City of Tucson, led to a new four-lane roadway with bike lanes and sidewalks extending Sabino Canyon Road south from its intersection with Tanque Verde Road to connect with Kolb Road, approximately one-third mile north of Speedway Boulevard.
Other improvements included new signals at both the Sabino Canyon Road intersections with Kolb Road and Crestline Drive, sound walls adjacent to the neighborhood to the west, bridges across Vincent Mullins Landfill and the Pantano Wash, drainage improvements, landscaping and public art. In addition, the project features LED street lighting for driver safety and neighborhood security.
This project also includes a transit layover and transfer point for Sun Tran routes 5, 8, 9 and 37.
And the best part … this connection makes the drive in this area so much more efficient. Traffic no longer has to go through heavy congestion at the Tanque Verde/Sabino Canyon intersection because of the Sabino Canyon north-south connection to Kolb Road.
Nov. 15, 2017 - The first phase of the Tangerine Road Corridor Project construction—the five-mile segment from Dove Mountain Boulevard/Twin Peaks Road to La Cañada Drive—is underway and anticipated to be complete in the summer of 2018. The roadway widening project, part of the voter-approved Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) plan, extends approximately 10 miles, from Interstate 10 to La Cañada Drive. Scheduling includes:
- Phase 1A – the two-mile segment from Dove Mountain Boulevard/Twin Peaks to Thornydale Road is scheduled to be completed in late summer of 2017.
- Phase 1B – the three-mile segment from Thornydale Road to La Cañada Drive is on schedule to be completed in the summer of 2018.
- The Dove Mountain Boulevard to I-10 section will be constructed during the fourth period (2021-2026) of the RTA plan.
This project will improve safety, access and circulation in the region because it will add capacity and prevent delays caused by drainage issues. The Town of Marana is the lead agency managing the project design and construction. Project partners include the RTA, Pima County and the Town of Oro Valley.
Some of the major features include:
- Widening the roadway to four lanes with landscaped medians to accommodate future traffic demands
- Providing facilities for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, including off-street multi-use paths.
- Installing additional turn lanes and signalization at key intersections
- Connects with recently completed widening of Tangerine Road east of La Cañada Drive
- Improves safety and access by eliminating dip crossings which cause road closures during heavy rainfall and dangerous sight distance problems
- Improves safety by providing roadway shoulders for bicycle travel
- Connects two state highway facilities, Interstate 10 and Oracle Road (State Route 77)
- Improves safety for both motorists and wildlife by providing wildlife crossings
- Improves pedestrian safety and ADA-accessibility to transit stops
Nov. 8, 2017 - A future transportation corridor in the heart of our region is Downtown Links. This new corridor, one of 35 regional transportation corridors funded through the Regional Transportation Authority plan, will be a 1.3-mile corridor that connects Barraza-Aviation Parkway to Interstate 10.
The four-lane roadway will include bike lanes, sidewalks and a multi-use path that will run north of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. Major drainage improvements will remove a large area of downtown and surrounding neighborhoods from a 100-year flood plain.
When completed, Downtown Links will include a Union Pacific Railroad underpass on 6th Street, which will eliminate one of the most hazardous railroad crossings in the state. A pair of new bicycle overpasses will improve the safety for bicyclists entering downtown. The Downtown Links project consists of three phases:
- Construction of Phase 1 (8th Street Drainage) was completed in 2012.
- Construction of Phase 2 (St. Mary’s Road) was completed in 2014.
- Construction of Phase 3 (Church Avenue to Broadway) will begin in early 2018, with completion in 2020.
The Downtown Links project is part of the long-range Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) plan, approved by Pima County voters in May 2006. The project will allow traffic on Broadway and Barraza-Aviation Parkway to have alternate paths to Interstate 10 without going through the congestion of the downtown area.
All projects in the $2.1 billion RTA plan are funded by a voter-approved half-cent transportation sales tax. The RTA has dedicated $76 million to the Downtown Links project from its 20-year plan. Construction of the Downtown Links project is managed by the City of Tucson.
Other project improvements include:
- Medians and turn lanes
- Major drainage improvements: Tucson Arroyo culvert expansion
- Four rail crossing upgrades to establish Quiet Zone eligibility (Main, 5th St, 9th Ave and 7th Ave)
- Maclovio Barraza Parkway bridge over 6th Avenue
- Public space and art (6+ artists selected for this project)
- Native desert landscaping and passive water harvesting
The Downtown Links Phase 2 project was a recipient of 2015 Local and State American Public Works Association Project of the Year.
Nov. 1, 2017 - It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a HAWK! The Regional Transportation Authority, in fact, has funded 56 signalized HAWK pedestrian crossings in the City of Tucson. The HAWK (High visibility Activated crossWalK) is a pedestrian-activated beacon located on mast arms, over the major approaches to an intersection. The safety feature was created in Tucson.
The HAWK head consists of two red lenses over a single yellow lens. When activated, the lights cycle from an amber warning flash, to solid amber and then to a solid red light that signals traffic to stop. This stop of traffic flow allows pedestrians to safely cross major streets. The light then transitions to a flashing red phase, which requires vehicles to stop and then proceed once pedestrians have crossed.
Previous research found driver yielding percentages above 95 percent at HAWKs even on major streets with multiple lanes or higher speeds.
A Federal Highway Administration- sponsored a study, published in 2010, to determine the safety benefits of the HAWK found:
- A 29 percent reduction in total crashes
- A 69 percent reduction in pedestrian crashes
- A 15 percent reduction in severe crashes
This study can be viewed at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/10042/10042.pdf.
In the meantime, the following HAWKs have recently “landed” in the Pima County region:
- Ft. Lowell Park at Craycroft Road
- Grant Road and Sahuara Avenue
- Nogales Highway and Alvord Road
- Mary Ann Cleveland Drive and Kush Canyon Lane
- Euclid Avenue and 5th Street
And “hatching” soon is a new pedestrian signal on Oracle Road at Las Lomitas Drive. To view how a HAWK works, please watch the following video:
Oct. 26, 2017 - One of the newest Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) roadway projects to come online is a seven-mile section of Wilmot Road. Formerly a dirt road, this stretch is now a two-lane paved roadway, creating a new regional corridor, from Sahuarita Road to Interstate 10, between Old Nogales Highway and Houghton Road.
The $10.4 million construction project, funded by the RTA ($9.8M) and Pima County, was managed by Pima County and completed in June 2017. The improved corridor serving the southeast metropolitan area of Tucson, provides more convenient access to thousands of commuters living between Corona de Tucson and the Town of Sahuarita.
Oct. 17, 2017 - When the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) plan was approved by voters in 2006, it included a promise to deliver 200 new bus pullouts. As of the summer of 2017, more than half of them have been completed.
The RTA plan allocated $30 million to fund bus pullouts over the life of the 20-year regional transportation plan. The added bus pullouts allow passengers to board transit vehicles outside of the traffic through lane.
Designated, paved pullouts are built to the right of through lanes and next to the curb. Traffic can continue to flow in the through lane, and drivers do not need to resort to lane changes to avoid traffic delays behind stopped buses.
This is particularly important at busy intersections, where the capacity of the intersection is greatly impacted by bus operations. Bus pullouts also provide benefits to transit riders since most new bus pullouts are constructed with shelters and other amenities to improve transit rider comfort.
The RTA established criteria, in cooperation with the City of Tucson and Sun Tran, for transit corridor bus pullouts to be implemented by the RTA. All pullouts are standardized to accommodate the full-size, 40-foot buses within the Sun Tran fleet. Design of pullouts for future 60-foot articulated buses and/or multiple buses is also considered along high-ridership corridors. Where feasible, bus pullouts are designed to allow not only vehicular traffic but also bicycle traffic to bypass stopped transit vehicles. Because of the heavy static loads which transit vehicles place on pavement, bus pullouts are paved with concrete rather than asphalt for greater service life and durability.
The size of the bus shelter varies based upon surrounding land uses and passenger use. Standard passenger amenities included in the pullout design include trash receptacles and security lighting. All bus pullouts are constructed to be fully accessible and conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act including handicap ramps at intersections, improved corridor access for the elderly and disabled, and new sidewalk connections where needed to provide for route continuity.
Bus pullouts have been constructed on major transit corridors, including Oracle Road, First Avenue, Country Club Road, Palo Verde Boulevard, Alvernon Way, Craycroft Road, Valencia Road, Ajo Way, Broadway Boulevard, 5th Street, Speedway Boulevard, and Fort Lowell Road. New pullouts also have been constructed in conjunction with new services in the outlying areas of the region, including express bus services serving Oro Valley and Rita Ranch as well as Sun Shuttle service to the Town of Marana. Completed RTA plan Roadway Element projects which have incorporated bus pullouts include the Speedway Boulevard project, the Twin Peaks Road project and La Cholla Boulevard project.
Oct. 11, 2017 - During the past 11 years, more new sidewalks, bike lanes and multi-use paths have been put in place all across the region. These projects are part of the 2006 voter-approved Regional Transportation Authority plan. The RTA and its member jurisdictions delivered these projects over the years.
The RTA promised to construct approximately 250 miles of sidewalks and 550 miles of bikeways over the life of the 20-year RTA plan. The RTA is well on its way to meeting this pledge, with over 149 miles of sidewalks and 271 miles of bike lanes completed to date.
The multimodal plan dedicated $60 million to fund bikeway, greenway, pathway and sidewalk improvements to support non-motorized forms of transportation and support the goal of the RTA plan to enhance our regional mobility options.
Since many existing roadways throughout the Tucson region do not have continuous sidewalks and bikeways, the RTA-funded projects have helped to fill gaps in the sidewalk and bikeways network. Shared-use paths, bike boulevards and bike lane improvements create a bicycle and pedestrian-friendly transportation system for all users.
Sidewalks are needed for a variety of groups, especially young children and people with disabilities who walk or use public transit for school and work. Bike boulevards provide the community a low stress alternative to biking on major streets, and bike lane facilities provide cyclists a safer environment for commuting on major roadways.
A well-connected, shared-use path network along the river park system adds to our region’s recreational and mobility options. Improvements funded through the RTA plan’s Environmental and Economic Vitality Element are creating an interconnected bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure network spanning the region.
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