Struggle continues over
East Frontage Road bike lanes

Sunday, March 31, 32013

By Kitty Bottmiller


State transportation officials have no plans to pave shoulders on East Frontage Road near the proposed Green Valley hospital anytime soon, but Green Valley leaders are bent on them for safety reasons.

Shoulders would create more room for traffic to yield to emergency vehicles just south of the hospital site. However, after the Green Valley Council learned Thursday that no shoulders are in the works, two GVC committees voted to ask state and county authorities to require that shoulders be constructed by the time the hospital opens about a year from now.

In a previous improvement project, shoulders were added from Continental Road to historic Canoa Ranch but weren’t finished to Canoa Road as originally planned for lack of funds.  Before there were plans for a hospital nearby, GVC began urging bicyclists traveling north and south not to use West Frontage Road because it has no shoulders, saying it is a fatality waiting to happen. The GVC suggested instead that they use East Frontage Road, which has some paved shoulders cyclists that use as bike lanes, although the lanes have a big gap near the historic Canoa Ranch.  Completion of those lanes is now a sticking point for local leaders.
GVC’s Traffic & Arroyos and Planning & Architectural Review committees met at The Springs to study updated engineering plans for the hospital site and a Traffic Impact Analysis completed by Dowl HKM Engineering of Tucson for developer McDowell Enterprises, as required in the development-approval process. It is subject to approval by Arizona Department of Transportation, which controls the frontage roads. Both ADOT and Pima County transportation officials have approved the analysis, which includes ADOT recommendations for a left-turn lane at each of two driveways onto  hospital property — one for emergencies/deliveries — and a right-turn lane for accessing the main entrance.
The committees are charged with assessing proposed development and its impact on Green Valley. Both support the hospital and have tentatively approved development plans, pending more detail on which to base their recommendations. The current analysis addresses the road fronting the hospital and 500-foot approaches on either side.
The GVC groups want more than what one meeting attendee called a “cookie-cutter” look at the big picture, to know how emergency vehicles and peak emergency hours factor into the mix, effect of speed limits likely to be reduced from the existing 50 mph, cost to add shoulders, and what development-impact fees could help pay for road improvements.
They question assumptions in the analysis that 70 percent of hospital traffic would exit I-19 at Continental Road and the rest from Canoa Road, which is contrary to what the hospital’s architect originally said.  “Even with emergency beacons overriding traffic signals to let vehicles through, an ambulance couldn’t get through (the Continental interchange),” said Stan Riddle, GVC president. He and others at the meeting noted that interchange has long been a “mess,” with a shopping plaza, post office, I-19 traffic and signaling sequence. Residents north of the hospital site are concerned about increased accident risk by more traffic in general.
“I don’t see how we can approve this,” said Paul LaCroix of the Green Valley/Sahuarita Chamber of Commerce and traffic committee member. “No one is claiming responsibility, everyone is shucking and jiving. I don’t see how we can approve anything without an agreement on adding shoulders.”
Dowl representatives were unsure of exact impact fees hospital development is generating but they could be at least $500,000, project engineer Tom Meehan said. He couldn’t pinpoint how long it would take to supply requested details, ballparking it at two to three months. No one could say whether the work would postpone construction progress, however, they noted that onsite work could be done without delay.