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Road Runner: $19M facelift nearly complete at Tucson's Valencia-Kolb intersection
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Road Runner

Road Runner: $19M facelift nearly complete at Tucson's Valencia-Kolb intersection

You might not recognize the area near East Valencia and South Kolb roads after the completion of a nearly $19 million road project later this month.

The new parkway-at-grade intersection has features we’ve seen before, such as “Michigan” lefts, which the Tucson Department of Transportation says are safer. There are also new bike lanes, sidewalks, drainage and landscaping, Tucson officials said.

“That intersection is one of our busiest for traffic volume in the city and the pavement on all four of those legs of the intersection was in failing condition,” said Blake Richards, one of the project managers for Tucson’s transportation department. “It was a much-needed project for the quality of the ride out there but also to address some of the conflicting traffic movements.

“The new configuration should help alleviate that a lot and help things run smoother.”

The main design change has eliminated the approximately 1,000-foot left-turn lanes that would cause a backup due to morning and afternoon rush-hour traffic. The indirect left turns prevent motorists from turning at the intersection with the “Michigan” left, forcing drivers to continue on to a marked U-turn area and be sent back to make a right turn.

“People are happy. Overall the project went pretty quickly, we kept it to one year of construction time and people were slowing down giving thumbs up. They’re excited that it’s going to be opening up,” Richards said.

Now there are indirect left turns on North Kolb Road and West Valencia Road, while new ramps connect East Valencia and South Kolb roads.

Now that travel has changed, here’s what motorists will find if they:

  • Need to travel north on Kolb to East Valencia? Motorists will turn right on the new southeast ramp set up near the new Amazon warehouse.
  • Need to travel north on Kolb to West Valencia? Motorists pass the Valencia intersection and make a U-Turn then turn right on Valencia.
  • Need to travel south on Kolb to West Valencia? Motorists can easily make a right turn at the intersection to Valencia.
  • Need to travel south on Kolb to East Valencia? Motorists go through the main intersection and make a left onto the southeast ramp near the Amazon warehouse.
  • Need to travel west on Valencia to North Kolb? Motorists can make a right turn at the main intersection.
  • Need to travel west on Valencia to South Kolb? Motorists go through the Valencia and Kolb intersection, make a U-turn and turn right at the intersection to head south. Also, motorists can turn left at the southeast ramp, turn right at Kolb, go north until the first available U-turn and onto South Kolb.
  • Need to travel east on Valencia to South Kolb? Motorists just make a right at the intersection to Kolb.
  • Need to travel east on Valencia to North Kolb? Motorists go through the intersection and make a left at the light for the northeast ramp, then merge onto Kolb.

This was done all in the name of safety and efficiency, said Michael Graham, spokesman for Tucson’s transportation department.

“It’s safer because most collisions at intersections involve a left-turning vehicle and usually you have a left-turn collision with a vehicle going through and those collisions can be pretty bad,” Graham said.

“It’s more efficient because we now don’t have to allow for left green arrow time at the intersections. All that left green arrow time that we had we can now give to the through movement.”

The project also created the need to establish new connections to businesses, like the Circle K on South Kolb Road at the southeast corner of the intersection. Crews maintained access to businesses like this one for the length of the project.

“When they first started it, it was really slow and now that they’ve opened it up a little bit more it’s picking up for sure,” said Rey Vivas, a clerk at the store, who’s seen the number of customers increase recently.

He said his managers were updated about the road configuration changes from transportation officials.

Also, the ride to work is not bad.

“I come down from Valencia, so it’s still pretty accessible for me at least,” Vivas added.

But the process is going to take some getting used to for some motorists.

Ray Hasenstab, a Rita Ranch Neighborhood Association board member for 15 years, said not everything went perfectly fine throughout the yearlong construction process.

“My one takeaway is they could’ve done a much better job at traffic management and inconvenience to the commuters,” he said after experiencing the delays and road closures throughout the process.

He also said he’ll take the “wait and see” approach on this project before deciding how impactful it really is to the area.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held on August 15 at 9 a.m. at the southwest quadrant of the intersection.

“Our top priority here in transportation is safety, so anything we can do to make a safer intersection for pedestrians, bicyclist, motorists, were going to do it,” Graham said.

Down the Road

Ramp closure set for I-10 at Valencia Road

The Interstate 10 off-ramp to Valencia Road will close Monday night for guardrail repairs.

The work will last from 7 p.m. to midnight.

Motorists should detour to Craycroft Road during the work.

Overnight lane closures for Ajo Way near I-19

Overnight lane closures are expected Monday on Ajo Way between Interstate 19 and Holiday Isle Boulevard.

Ajo Way, officially called Arizona 86, will be reduced to one lane in each direction from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night until Friday, Aug. 2.

Motorists should use caution and watch for personnel in the area.

Delays expected in Nogales Sunday

Motorists should expect delays on Arizona 189, south of Mastik Way, as crews work on overhead utility lines.

The work will last from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m., causing intermittent road closures of 15 minutes during construction.

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1

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Shaq is a public safety reporter and the Road Runner columnist, keeping readers up to date on transportation news. In 2017, he started as an apprentice and later worked part-time until graduating from the UA and being offered a full-time position in 2018.

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