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Jun 12, 2014 1:51 AM by Sean Mooney

Construction launch for Oracle Road superhighway

TUCSON - There are big changes for drivers on the northside in Oro Valley and beyond.

Thursday marks the beginning of the Oracle Road Expansion project. Construction will include new travel lanes, wider shoulders, and traffic signal improvements.

The widening project runs through the seven mile stretch of road on State Route 77, between Tangerine Road and the Pinal County line.

The widening of Oracle Road is the result of county residents voting to put aside $44.5 million for the project. Construction is being managed by the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Regional Transportation Authority.

Utility work and the clearing of power lines began last year.

While two years of construction will be inconvenient for drivers, Golden Goose Thrift Store Assistant General Manager Ron Peck says the work will be more costly for merchants along the route, "We're not really looking forward to the widening of Oracle Road, it's going to be a real pain," Peck said, "hopefully they can get it done quickly and it won't take forever."

Another big part of the project is the construction of two wildlife crossings over and under Oracle Road. Six miles of funneling fence will also be installed to lead wildlife to the crossing points.

Carolyn Campbell, Executive Director of the Coalition for Desert Protection, says getting the crossings built involved decades of work, "It's been close to actually 20 years that we've been working on this," Campbell said, "this has always been a top project in this region. It's kind of a no-brainer that this would be a spot where we would want to make sure that animals could continue to move as they have for centuries."

Other additions to the project include a 10 foot wide bike lane and rubberized asphalt to improve driving conditions and cut down on noise.

The Oracle Road Expansion Project is expected to be completed by spring 2016.

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