Pima County Gets $20 Million Federal Grant to Improve Valencia Road

The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced that Pima County will receive $20 million from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity Act to add travel lanes, sidewalks, bike lanes, and other transit enhancements to a 1.3-mile segment of West Valencia Road.

Once completed, Valencia between Mission Road and Camino de la Tierra will have increased lanes, better traffic flow, be safer, improved bike lanes, and better public transportation access and amenities.

It also will improve the connection between metro Tucson and underserved communities including the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and the Tohono O’odham Nation San Xavier District, as well as newly developed residential areas of unincorporated Pima County.

“This investment in a historically underserved area will improve road safety and access to resources that will benefit the entire west Valencia Road corridor,” said Adelita S. Grijalva, chair of the Pima County Board of Supervisors. “There is more to gain from road improvement than adding lanes, which is why I fully support Pima County’s commitment to Complete Streets.”

Complete Streets is a design concept that improves access for all roadway users including bicyclists and pedestrians.

Members of Arizona’s Congressional delegation Friday notified the County of its successful application, and Rep. Raul Grijalva sent a news release late on June 23 announcing the award. Formal notification by USDOT is expected by June 28.

Improving safety is one of the main purposes of this project, in addition to creating environmentally sustainable infrastructure, improving the quality of life for citizens in the surrounding community, and creating economic opportunity in underserved demographics.

From 2017 to 2021 this corridor had some of the poorest safety ratings in the Tucson metropolitan area. Over that period there were four pedestrian crashes, three of which resulted in fatalities, and three bicycle crashes. All three events that resulted in fatalities occurred at night in locations without sidewalks. Over that same five-year period Arizona Department of Transportation data shows 382 total vehicle crashes involving 1,168 people. Those crashes resulted in 127 injuries and five fatalities.

This project will add sidewalks where none currently exist, lighting throughout the entirety of the project limits, increase the number of travel lanes, add protected bicycle lanes, and upgrade public transit stops with bus pullouts, benches, and shelters. These improvements will turn this section of West Valencia Road into a Complete Street with a focus on robust active transportation infrastructure.

“Federal infrastructure funding assistance like this is not only appreciated and extremely helpful, but it also frees up local dollars that would have gone to the Valencia Corridor project for other needed transportation improvements in the County’s continuing efforts to build a better Pima County that is safe and sustainable,” said Pima County Administrator Jan Lesher.

Over the last 20-plus years Pima County has been a leader in long-term planning through a lens of environmental sustainability and equality; this project will continue those efforts. The designed improvements to West Valencia Road will help reduce air, water, and noise pollution in the area by reducing traffic congestion and idling time at intersections along this corridor. This project will also reduce congestion, cut-through traffic, emissions, and noise impact in adjacent low-income and disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Since October 2016 there have been 25 incidents where West Valencia Road or connected intersections were closed as a result of flooding or other weather-related events in which there were closures or traffic restrictions. Replacing or improving critical infrastructure in the area will reduce flooding, improve emergency response times, and reduce road closures in the future. These efforts reflect Pima County’s designation as a Class-3 Community for going above and beyond the federal minimum requirements for floodplain management.

“These improvements not only make travel more efficient and safer, it demonstrates the communication and dedication to improving the quality of life for our neighbors and businesses.,” said Joe Miller president of the Midvale Park Neighborhood Association. “Home values, test scores, and income levels all rise just a little when we do the right things to improve our daily commute.”

West Valencia Road is the primary connection to the City of Tucson for both the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and the Tohono O’odham Nation San Xavier District. The area is primarily a commercial sector with grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, and food service making up most of the businesses, but has very little walkable infrastructure. The addition of sidewalks throughout the project area and lighting to provide safe non-vehicular access to these businesses will vastly improve the quality of life for the surrounding residential areas. Additionally, most of the public transit infrastructure in the area needs critical repairs or upgrades. Bus stops in the project area are mostly unsheltered and are not ADA-compliant. Updated bus stops, including bus pullouts, benches, and shelters plus protected bike lanes will encourage use of public transit for those who cannot afford to own a vehicle.

Once completed, the West Valencia Road Project will make the streets safer for both pedestrians and drivers while providing a better quality of life for the surrounding community and those who visit the area to support local businesses. Implementing these improvements will continue Pima County’s efforts to incorporate “complete streets” designs into all arterial and collector roadways. The “complete streets” designs will ensure that all users, whether behind the wheel of a vehicle, on a bicycle, or on foot have safe access to the roadways.

“We are ecstatic to receive this RAISE Grant for the residents in Pima County,” said Kathryn Skinner, director of the Pima County Department of Transportation. “West Valencia Road is a vital corridor for our community. This project will improve mobility for all the traveling public including pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users. The Department of Transportation is focused on modernizing this corridor with a focus on Complete Streets by adding needed additional travel lanes, sidewalks, paved shoulders, transit enhancements and safety improvements.”

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