La Cholla intersection a pivot point for five-mile project
Work on the first phase of the Magee / Cortaro Farms road project could begin in late 2010 at the Magee / La Cholla intersection, where Pima County plans to install "the one and only jug handle in the county," Supervisor Ann Day told an open house crowd at Pima College's Northwest Campus last Thursday.
The "jug handle" is a roadway design feature intended to flow traffic through the now-disjointed Magee/La Cholla intersection. It would serve as the pivot point for a 5-mile expansion of Magee and Cortaro between Oracle Road and Thornydale from two to four lanes, with medians, adjacent foot and bike paths, intersection work, drainage improvements, landscaping, public art, a new bridge across the Canada del Oro Wash and more.
Thursday's meeting was the third open house on the Magee / Cortaro project. The entire project is "30 percent planned," according to project consultant Bill Schlesinger of the firm AECOM.
Development of a preliminary design and environmental analyses are nearing completion. Traffic and drainage reports are moving forward. The environmental document, with a concept design and the expected environmental impacts and needed mitigation, is completed, and has been given to the eight-member citizens advisory committee. A recommendation letter on that plan should go to the county board of supervisors in September.
Environmental manager Mike Dawson of the consulting firm EcoPlan held up the thick environmental plan for a large audience on a hot night. He said it "may look more comprehensive than concise," though "much of it is appendices."
What does the document do? From an engineering perspective, "how do you fix it?" Dawson explained. From an environmental perspective, "what's the effect of those repairs?"
Pima County Department of Transportation has identified the Magee corridor as a designated environmentally sensitive roadway. But, for a five-mile project, this one is "more on the easy side," said Dawson. "The physical impacts on the ground are not nearly as bad as many I've seen."
There are a number of drainages and washes on the project, including the CDO crossing. "Each time we cross one of those, we have multiple masters" needing answers, from the Pima County Flood Control District to the Army Corps of Engineers, which must issue permits, Dawson said.
Day was excited by the prospect of a bridge over the CDO wash. "Imagine that," Day said. "I can't wait for that."
The nine-year supervisor has "heard every monsoon season from many of you" about the wash. "It's very frustrating when you can't cross the wash."
From the jug handle, the project would head east on Magee from La Cholla to La Canada, where the Magee/La Canada intersection will be built as part of the La Canada improvement project. From there, the project would move toward Oracle.
"West of Mona Lisa, we're further down the road," Schlesinger said. It may be 2015 before that work begins.
"When RTA was set up, that was the schedule that was approved," Schlesinger said. "We can't change that schedule."
Funds for Magee / Cortaro come from 1997 bond issues, Regional Transportation Authority monies, impact fees and federal sources, according to DOT engineering division manager Rick Ellis.
"Is any of the funding at risk?" someone asked.
"I'd like to say 'no.'" Ellis said. "But I can't predict the future. Money is in place for the first phase."
Day looks forward to "much-needed drainage improvements." She praised the work of the citizens advisory committee, and the input of commuters, residents and the project team.
"It's impossible to please everyone," Day said. But, with continued dialogue, "we'll have a beautiful, functional roadway we can all be proud of."
Reports on the public art portion of the project were given Thursday by planning artist Nina Borgia-Aberle.
"We get a lot of comments on public art work, good and bad, a lot of times after the art work is done," Schlesinger said. "We'd like to have those comments now."
From this point, public comments are accepted through July 23, and reviewed. The environmental assessment and design concept report would then be finalized. A hearing would be held before the Pima County Supervisors in September.
The project web site is www.roadprojects.pima.gov/cortarormagee/
Studies show 22 properties most affected by road noise
Noise analyses of the Magee/Cortaro Farms roadway have identified 22 locations that meet or exceed the 66-decibel federal standard that triggers noise-reducing mitigation such as walls, according to a consulting firm's environmental manager.
"If we don't build" the roadway, and traffic expands on the two-lane road, "those 22 locations will also meet the 66 decibels," said Mike Dawson, of the consulting firm EcoPlan. "It makes no difference, whether we don't build or we build."
Magee and Cortaro handle about 16,000 vehicles a day, about "what a two-lane road can handle," Dawson said. "There are a number of problems with the existing roads."
More than 32,000 vehicles a day are expected in 2030.
Factors in the decision to build noise-reducing walls include cost – not more than $35,000 per "benefited receiver" — and the need for mitigation to achieve at least a 5-decibel reduction in noise. Walls are estimated to cost $25 per square foot to build. Ideally, a noise reduction wall is continuous and "breaks the line of sight."
"Single receivers don't normally quality for a wall," said Dawson. On a number of properties, "the only way to protect them from noise would be to block their access."