Design work is underway for the Regional Transportation Authority’s project to improve Silverbell Road, from Grant Road to Ina Road. Through the end of 2010, a Citizen Task Force will meet on the first Wednesday of each month. The task force, which began its work in December, 2009, represents County, City and Town neighborhoods, and businesses along Silverbell Road. Each month the commissioned engineers, Kittelson & Associates, present preliminary design ideas, and the Task Force attempts to come to consensus on issues such as road design, landscaping, adequacy of wildlife corridors, treatment of cuts into hillsides and other issues. Members of the public are always welcome to comment at each meeting, as well as at additional public meetings. This Task Force will not make the final decisions, which will be made by the governing bodies of Pima County, the City of Tucson and the Town of Marana, but will report the extent to which it achieved consensus on the design issues. It is laudable that the government agencies have created a Citizen Task Force, so that the affected communities can play a direct role in the preliminary design of this crucial road, which links all those who reside on the Westside with the rest of the world.
This project was among those approved by the voters in a ballot measure in May, 2006. The project spans City of Tucson, Town of Marana and Pima County jurisdictions, so the three governments must jointly approve the final plans. Tucson DOT Engineer and Westside resident Andy Dinauer is the project leader. The TMA Board devoted a great deal of time and energy during 2005, under former President Debbie Hecht’s leadership, to gather together representatives of Westside homeowners’ associations and other residents, into a "Silverbell Action Coalition." That group developed recommendations for the RTA plan for the Westside, and these improvements to Silverbell Road were made a part of the plan, as a result. The specific recommendations of the Silverbell Action Coalition, including adequate safe wildlife corridors, natural desert landscaping and bicycle, pedestrian and equestrian lanes, are being honored in these plans.
Construction is expected to begin on the southern portion of this project, from Grant Road to El Camino del Cerro, in 2012; and on the northern section, El Camino del Cerro to Ina Road, in 2022. Silverbell is to become a four-lane parkway divided by a landscaped median divider. It will have a 6-foot wide bicycle lane and a multi-use lane suitable for walking, horseback riding, wheelchair access and other uses. The current plans call for water harvesting to serve a lovely low-maintenance landscape design of native plants. Incidentally, during the period between 2017 and 2022, plans call for the RTA to complete projects linking Sunset Road at Silverbell across the Santa Cruz River and the Freeway to River Road; and providing a railroad underpass and intersection widening at El Camino del Cerro near the Freeway.
Under current flood control requirements, Silverbell Road can no longer pass right through washes. The road bed will be raised at all existing washes. Underpasses of various sizes will be created, which are planned to be adequate wildlife corridors.
The plan is to widen Silverbell Road mostly on its east side, to minimize disruption of existing hillier terrain on the west side of the road and to avoid taking any more private land than necessary. Unfortunately, a few hill cuts will be necessary on the western side. As of the current time, design work focuses on whether soil nail walls are the best solution at each such location, or whether the reduced hills should be graded back and then landscaped with plants which reflect the native flora present today.
Your involvement is welcome. You can view all of the current plans and maps, and comment, at the project web site: http://www.silverbellroad.info/. You can attend meetings and hear the presentations for yourself. You can contact TMA representative Judith Meyer for further information, or provide feedback directly through the web site. For further information on the RTA and all of its activities, see http://www.rtamobility.com/.