Ground is being broken Wednesday morning on the controversial reconstruction of La Cañada Boulevard from Ina Road to Calle Concordia.
County Supervisor Ann Day plans to be watching. She vows to keep an eye on the road project and its expenses, with the hope she can get money moved toward expanded noise and visual mitigation of several properties along La Cañada.
"We are not done trying to make that next step forward," Day told the fall gathering of the La Cañada Magee Neighborhood Association last Thursday at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church.
Day said there is "an unprecedented safeguard in place specific to La Cañada" such that, when contractor KE&G Construction requests a change order, an automatic audit is triggered. Day plans to review the same financial reports received by project engineers.
"And when we continue to show a surplus on this road project, we're going to do everything we can to take the next step forward and fight the RTA, (County Administrator Chuck) Huckelberry and the board's majority to do the right thing and get you the walls this neighborhood deserves," Day said.
"I am extremely disappointed we didn't get the walls, but I haven't given up, and I don't want you to give up."
After many interactions, reductions and additions, 13 mitigation walls are part of the project. "There are still four properties we feel are greatly unprotected," LCMNA President David Davis said.
He encouraged people to attend Wednesday morning's groundbreaking, perhaps with protest signs. "You could bring a sign to say how you like the roadway, or how you don't like the roadway," Davis said.
Improvement to La Cañada is needed, and it's coming, Davis said. "The best thing we can do is embrace it, and do our best to make it fit our needs. We have made a difference, we will continue to make a difference, we're not letting anything die."
The project's low bidder, KE&G, came in at $13.199 million, near what the LCMNA thought the work would cost and below the county's original estimate of $22.6 million to $24.5 million. "We had better overall estimates on the construction than what they did," Davis said.
"We need the improvement to the road; what we need is some fair treatment from the county," LCMNA's Steve Hildebrand said.
Day told LCMNA residents that the neighborhood has been "ground zero for so many important neighborhood protections that now apply throughout the county," among them practices concerning development, junked vehicles, cellular phone towers, graffiti and more.
"But like so many things that involved government, it seems like for every two steps forward, there's one step back," Day said in prepared remarks, "or in the county, sometimes you take a step forward and then go staggering around in circles trying to get government to do what's right. Particularly when you're dealing with something like getting proper noise mitigation on a new road project."
She said the LCMNA took "a huge step forward" when a Regional Transportation Authority subcommittee sided with it on broader noise mitigation, to be paid for "with the savings on the construction contract bid."
It took a step backward, Day continued, when the RTA board – with a motion from Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis, a member of the board – overruled the subcommittee, and denied "the sound mitigation and screening that is clearly necessary for the La Cañada project."
"They don't want to set a precedent," Day staff member Patrick Cavanaugh told the group of the RTA's decision. "They figure it would roll through every project in the RTA."
"I don't want to see this precedent," LCMNA's Donna Heidinger said. "I don't feel it's a good precedent."