A $10 million construction project set to begin this fall could mark the beginning of the end of left turns at major intersections for a big chunk of Grant Road.
As part of the 20-year Regional Transportation Authority plan, Grant will, over time, become six lanes from North Oracle to North Swan roads. But most immediately, the upcoming improvement at Grant and Oracle will bring big changes to the way people use the intersection.
It's the first part of the $167 million project along Grant. Most of the money comes from the half-cent RTA sales tax, plus $6 million in city funding.
Here's a look:
What's new: The biggest change is no more left turns from Grant on to Oracle. Drivers will continue through the intersection, make a U-turn, and then make a right turn to get to Oracle. This will be the model for all other major intersections along Grant between Oracle and Swan. Left turns will still be allowed from Oracle onto Grant. The new design will mean shorter wait times at the traffic light, more cars get through the light on Grant, and less gas wasted, said Melissa Antol, the city's project manager. It's also supposed to reduce injury crashes by 30 percent, city officials say.
What else is going on: The city will redesign the intersection so each direction has three through lanes and a right turn lane. Oracle will have double left-turn lanes in both directions. Bike amenities are planned, such as special "bike boxes" painted on the asphalt to give bicyclists their own spot to wait at the traffic signal. Public art, landscaping and sidewalks are also included. Medians will separate traffic on Grant Road.
How long will it take: about one year, starting in the fall.
What people are saying:
• "The Grant area really needs to be improved," said Elizabeth Bejarano, 44. She lives north of the project, works downtown, and crosses through Grant and Oracle everyday in her commute, and when she goes grocery shopping. While she said she doesn't like the medians associated with the left-turn scheme, "There's a lot of pedestrians in the area so I think it's going to help," she said. Without the left-turn lanes on Grant, pedestrians have a shorter distance to cross the street. "Overall, I think it's going to be a good thing. I've had a positive outlook about it from the beginning."
• Joe Fanelli, 70, owns the Sausage Deli at Grant and North First Avenue. "I think it's great but I think it's going to take too long," he said. He worries the project will hurt businesses, and would prefer all the work gets done in about five years, instead of being stretched for 12 years. "The left turns, is that going to work? God only knows."
• Bob Van Rhee said he can't wait for the project to get going. "It shouldn't be bad, I think it's neat, it's progress," said Van Rhee, 47. He owns a business just south of Grant. "I like the indirect left, it will ease all the congestion on the corners," he said.
• Area resident J.J. Moates said she's concerned about some of the historic and unique buildings along the corridor, but is happy to see the public meetings are useful. "They're actually seeming to take in the suggestions," she said. Moates, 54, said she's worried about the noise the wider road may create, but is happy the project incorporates bicycle improvements and public art. "I hope it looks as good" as the artist's concepts, she said.
The rest of the Grant Road corridor: The full project plan includes widening Grant to three lanes in each direction from Oracle to Swan, with the work broken up into six segments. The $10 million Oracle/Grant intersection is the first construction in the corridor. The next section is widening Grant from Stone to Park avenues, where construction is scheduled to start in 2014 and cost about $19 million.
The work was separated into sections for a few reasons, said Jim Glock, Tucson's transportation director. One reason is the road's funding source: our half-cent sales tax for road projects. Not all that money is available all at once. Plus, he said, it's easier for construction and for drivers when it's done in smaller chunks.
Find out more: Information on the Grant Road project, including public meetings, is online at www.grantroad.info. The latest on the Grant and Oracle intersection will be available on the site starting next week. Alternately, call the Grant Road information line, 624-4727.
Contact reporter Andrea Kelly at email@example.com or 807-7790.