One of the recreational crown jewels of Pima County is taking a hit from Project Ina.
"I think it's one of the best things the region has ever done," said Town of Marana Engineer Keith Brann, as he talked Wednesday about The Loop bike path, and the ongoing construction that will close one spot of it for the entirety of the two-year project.
According to the Pima County website, the Arizona Department of Transportation project to construct a bridge over Interstate 10 and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks at Ina Road will close The Loop south of Ina Road at Ted Walker Road and north of Ina Road at the Crossroads at Silverbell District Park.
County officials said once the bridge project is completed, there will be Loop trail underpasses on each side of the Santa Cruz River, new access ramps to Ina Road and new bike lanes and sidewalks along Ina Road.
But the current inconvenience has cyclists frustrated.
"It's just kind of told the cyclists you're on your own," said Doug Bauman with the Cycling Advocates of Southern Arizona. "The only signage is 'road closure' or 'path closure.'"
What really concerns Bauman is there is no official detour. Brann said that decision was not made lightly.
"We are appreciative of how much people do want to use The Loop trail. Unfortunately, from a matter of public safety, we just were not able to accommodate that traffic through the work zone. We weren't able to find reasonable alternative routes that we felt comfortable assigning as formal detour routes," Brann said.
Brann explained The Loop crosses directly through the construction zone, and that they weren't able to safely keep it functional during the construction period. He said there are not adequate shoulders in some of the areas surrounding the construction site that they feel comfortable designating as a formal detour.
One option is nearby North Silverbell Road, which Bauman said is too heavy with traffic. "And now that there's additional traffic due to the Ina Road closure, it's almost like it's a death trap out there. I would only imagine a very experienced cyclist trying to navigate that."
Pima County officials said they share in the frustration of "not being able to offer a safe, off-street alternative." But they said they gave cyclists and pedestrians who use the pathways as much notice as possible. They started talking about the closure more than a year ago on The Loop Facebook page.
Brann said roughly 110 miles of The Loop remain open for riders, but understands this closed spot hurts commuters from Marana to downtown Tucson the most.
"That's kind of how every construction project goes. There's always a matter of inconvenience, and then we do have a much better product in the end."
To see an official map and alternate routes of The Loop, visit the Pima County website.
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