Road runner: Planned Ina-Oracle redo stirs concern

2011-06-13T00:00:00Z 2011-06-13T15:31:28Z Road runner: Planned Ina-Oracle redo stirs concernBy Rhonda Bodfield Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 13, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Road Runner's inbox can attest that folks continue to have concerns about upcoming intersection changes that will prevent drivers on Ina Road from making left turns onto Oracle Road.

The premise, essentially, means drivers on Ina who want to turn left onto Oracle will have to use a roundabout way of getting there. They'll go through the intersection with Ina and make a U-turn a short ways later, followed by a right turn to get back onto Oracle.

It's essentially what you'd do if you were rocking out to the latest Lady Gaga single and forgot to make your turn and had to rectify it with a U-turn.

Drivers on Oracle will continue to have access to left turns.

Pima County officials say they have little choice.

Almost 100,000 vehicles go through that intersection every day - that's the seventh-busiest intersection in the region. At peak times, traffic can back up for a mile.

The $5 million project is touted as a way to cut down the light cycle at the intersection, helping to push more cars through.

On average throughout the county, a light cycle is 90 seconds long, between through traffic and left turns. Oracle and Ina? About 165 seconds long.

By eliminating left turns off Ina, the light cycle can be shaved by about 25 seconds. That might not sound like much, but it means there will be more cycles in an hour. And planners postulate it will reduce the average delay at the intersection by 45 percent.

But reader Bill Slocum's sentiments are fairly representative. He concludes it's an "unacceptable fix," and he fears the U-turns will just make a mess of things.

County planners have heard it all before.

People who want to make U-turns will have their own turning lane, so traffic presumably won't back up behind them.

And they will also have a signal, so they won't have to fight for a gap in traffic.

But planners also acknowledge that the fix is going to be very dependent on having the signals coordinated so U-turners won't find themselves trying to turn with nowhere to go, with backed-up intersections. Assuming that coordination happens - combined with making the right-turn lane onto Oracle from westbound Ina into a double lane to move cars faster out of the intersection - they say the U-turners won't get stuck in a morass.

Like it or not, we may have to get used to them. There's going to be another of these "Michigan turns" going in at Grant and Oracle roads. Fortunately for the city's transportation director, Jim Glock, who already has his hands full with high-profile traffic issues, the county's less-complex project is going first. If all goes well, the county hopes to start construction by the end of the year.

Michigan's state transportation website calls the turns "often maligned and often misunderstood," noting that other states "have been slow to experiment" with the system. Still, it says, residents don't get too heated about it after 50 years of seeing the turns, but it acknowledges that they don't win popularity contests with out-of-town drivers (and we're guessing they don't have many snowbirds.)

At any rate, the question's open about whether we should adopt technologies from a state thatgave us Eminem and Madonna.

Road Q

Question: Green Valley resident Hal Jewell is confounded by the Papago Road exit south of Tucson along Interstate 19.

"It is truly the 'exit to nowhere,' " he writes. The only option is to re-enter the freeway, since the exit appears to dead-end on the east and west sides. "Can you shed any light on why this exit is even there?" he asks.

Answer: Linda Ritter, a spokeswoman with the Arizona Department of Transportation, said the exit actually does go somewhere. It's just that it connects to an unimproved road that isn't maintained by the state. The road leads to the Tohono O'odham Nation and is used regularly, she said.

Road Runner addresses road-related issues in this column on Mondays. Send your Road Q questions by e-mail to roadrunner@azstarnet.com or to 4850 S. Park Ave., Tucson, AZ 85714. Please include your first and last names.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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